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College of Human Ecology

Tips for Parents: Choose Toys That Benefit Child, Family

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

MANHATTAN, Kan. - 'Tis the season for toy advertisements. Everywhere children turn, they are being seduced into thinking that they have to have the newest and most popular toys.

Children are not the only ones who are being seduced this time of year, though, said Charles A. Smith, Kansas State University Research and Extension child development specialist. Parents also can be lured into buying these items for their kids.

Kids' asking for a lot of gifts for the holidays isn't wrong, he said. Children naturally want things, and parents can't do a lot to make children ask for less. Parents can, however, teach them about which wishes are and are not practical.

"Children would rather have a parent's presence than presents," Smith said. "Parents can't buy affection - they need to show love and make sacrifices to give family members what they need or would like because that is what love is about. After they've grown up, children will realize the sacrifices their parents have made for them."

Smith gave these tips for parents to use when choosing toys:

* The No. 1 thing to look for in toys is safety.

* Follow the age recommendations for each toy. Getting a toy recommended for older ages may not only be unsafe but also not suit a child's development level. Buy toys that children will be able to put together and teach themselves how to use.

* Don't overlook how a child's creativity can be sparked by toys that don't do too much. For example, buying a doll that talks decreases a child's imagination. Over time, the child can become bored with the toy.

* Boredom is not the only reason kids put toys aside. Battery- operated toys, such as remote control cars, may be tossed aside if batteries aren't replaced periodically.

* Too many toys can be overwhelming to a youngster. Spacing out gift giving over time reduces anxiety and allows the child enough time to play with each toy. Waiting to open some gifts at a relative's is one way to space out gifts.

Buying a child a lot of gifts during the holidays is sometimes a parent's way of trying to "buy" their child's love, Smith said. What kids really want is to spend time with the parent.

Toys such as board games that invite others to play along can teach values and be something that parents and children can do together, he said.

"Parents should remember that they are the ones in control," Smith said. "By not letting their kids 'bully' them and by only buying gifts that are appropriate and affordable, parents can teach their children about realistic expectations."

More information on managing parent and child relationships successfully is available on Smith's Web site at: www.ksu.edu/wwparent/.

This article was posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2005, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.