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What Makes a Good Toy?

I have a few idea about what makes a good toy. What about you?

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This is a question every parent should--and probably has--pondered. When we spend hard-earned cash on a toy, we want to be sure it provides good value and good play. Though I am writing from the perspective of a work-at-home mom, which means I put extra emphasis on independent play, I think my definition of a good toy lines up with many other parent’s views.

To me, a good toy is:

  • Inspiring for the imagination. This is my number one criteria. A kid who is using his or her imagination to spin fantastical scenarios will stay busy longer and learn more than a kid playing with a toy with narrow creative parameters.
     
  • Simple. The simpler the toy the more room there is for creativity. Wooden blocks become skyscrapers. Most, but not all, of the playthings I would consider good toys are not electronic. This is because electronic toys can be short on imagination and long on complexity. Also they are more apt to break. However, there are some electronic toys that I’d consider good toys.
     
  • Challenging. Just because a toy is simple doesn't mean it can't be challenging. Kids need to be actively using their brains or they get bored. So a toy that makes kids think will get played with more.
     
  • Not easily breakable. Obviously a sturdy well-made toy is what parents want to spend their money on. And kids appreciate that too. If it’s a good toy then kids will want to play with it for years, which, of course, can’t be done if it breaks within the first few weeks or months.
     
  • Age appropriate. Give a kid a toy that is too complex for his or her age level, and it will stay at the bottom of the toy box long after the child has grown old enough to play with it. Or worse, you’ll be doing all the “playing.” I know we all want our kids to excel, but sometimes it’s better for them to play (and learn) independently with a toy meant for a younger child than get frustrated with something complicated that negates their sense of independence.

I have created a list of good toys. And while not every toy fulfills every criterion, but these are the types of toys that will keep your kids busy (and let you get some work done!). See my list Good Toys for Kids.

Some Good Toys:

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