Toy Buying Guide in 2020: Age and Gender-Based Features and FAQ


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Toys, toys, toys. Toys are arguably one of the closest companions of our children, especially at infancy. As parents we do our best to control the environment our kids grow up in and that ranges from selecting the right schools to selecting the right toys.

In choosing the right toys there are a lot of features we as parents must consider. First and of utmost importance is safety. Beyond educational, gender and age considerations, at the forefront of all our toy buying decisions is safety.

In this article, we are going to give you a detailed analysis of the three major factors to consider when trying to select a toy. These three factors are

  • Safety
  • Age
  • Gender

Safety Considerations

Safety Considerations in choosing toys for babiesWhen it comes to safety there is a long list of things to consider. Toys are fun and keep our children busy and entertained. However, toys can also be a harbinger of hazard and danger.

These dangers can broadly be categorized into 3

Poisons

You are probably wondering how toys can be poisonous. The thought that companies would sell poison as a toy seems impossible. However, although companies don’t sell poisons as toys, sometimes materials and chemicals used to make certain toys can be poisonous. 

This is very common among old toys as they are usually painted with lead-based paint. Most toys before 1978 fall into this category, so be extra cautious before accepting that hand me down toy as a gift.

Another source of poison to infants is batteries. Ever bought a toy only to realize that the battery compartment is screwed shut? As annoying as it is to have to find a screwdriver to replace a battery, that screw is protecting your child. Children are explorers, and given the right set of circumstances, they would find a way to pry a battery out of its compartment. Without the battery compartment tightly shut, your child might end up sucking a battery and ingesting the nasty acid that batteries are made of.

Curious adventurers that children are, there is a high probability that all available toys would be in their mouth one point or the other. As parents, we must ensure that everything within the reach of our kids is safe, most especially their toys.

Fire

Your child shouldn’t be anywhere near naked-fire or excessive heat. The task of protecting our children from burns and scalds goes beyond careful monitoring. The toys we get for our children also play an important role. Avoid buying highly flammable toys. Flame resistant and flame retardant toys are a better way to go. The right type of toys that do not encourage the spread of fire, is crucial to your child's safety. A highly flammable toy can change a simple spark into an all-out fire hazard.

Choking and Injury hazards.

This is a major cause of death and injury among children. Toys with sharp edges or that are highly breakable can quickly turn into dangerous objects. Cuts and bruises from toys aren’t uncommon especially toys that aren’t properly designed.

However, cuts and bruises are Childs play compared to choking hazards. With a cut or a bruise, you can easily apply first aid. However, when something gets stuck in your baby’s throat you most likely have to get your baby to the Emergency room immediately.

Small toys or toys with small pieces that can get stuck in your child's throat aren’t ideal, especially for infants. Also, toys that don’t have their battery section screwed shut can pose a danger in this regard. Small batteries can find their way into your child's mouth as easily as a piece of biscuit.

To avoid exposing your child to any of these dangers, ensure you inspect a toy thoroughly before giving it to your child. A toy that doesn’t meet all safety requirements isn’t advisable. No matter how fun and cool it looks, if it's not safe, it's not worth it. You might also want to review your child's toy chest. See which of them are below standard and take them out.


Age Consideration

As your baby grows out of infancy into toddlerhood, his/her taste in toys change. As parents, we must select the appropriate toys for each stage of our children's growth and development. The right toy for each age must factor in a lot of things, such as coordinative movement and intelligence. Therefore, as our children grow it becomes necessary for us to change their toys to suit their current age.

To guide your buying decision, we are going to give a breakdown of each developmental stage and what your baby needs in a toy at each stage of growth and development.

Young infants: From Birth to Six (6) Months

At this stage, babies are fascinated with bright colors and their bodies. They are slowly beginning to understand what their hands and feet can do. Therefore complicated toys like detachable blocks and cars aren’t required. A toy they can reach for, hold, throw, reach for and repeat, would do just fine. 

Examples of such toys are soft dolls, large rings, testing toys, pacifiers, vinyl, etc.

Check out our the Best Toys for 6 Month Old Babies

Older Infant: Seven (7) To Twelve (12) Months

At this stage, babies begin to develop cognitive and intelligence skills. They start to respond to their names and other common words. Babies also become more active, engaging their bodies by scooting, standing, creeping, etc. To meet the new demands of an older infant a toy must be able to offer something in terms of cognitive and mental stimulation.

Examples of toys perfect for older infants are dolls, water toys, wooden cubes, etc.

Check out the best Best Toys for 12 Month Old Girls

Young Toddler: Age 1

One-year-olds are full of energy. At this age, they start to walk and explore. Around this time their imaginations start to kick in. They can be a handful so you have to keep an extra eye on them especially during play. At this stage, toys must be more interesting and have a few features to play with. Young toddlers tend to build and create, so if you want your child to have an aptitude for creativity then this might be the time to start. The toys should still be simple, but a mere bowl wouldn’t keep them entertained anymore.

Examples of toys for young toddlers are Toy phones, crayons, washable markers, dolls and doll beds, stuffed toys, plastic toys, realistic toy vehicles such as cars and fire trucks.

Check out the Best Toys for 18 Month Old Babies.

Older Toddler: Age 2

At this age kids have a better grasp of language and are even more explorative. Climbing, jumping, rolling and tumbling. 2-year-olds are very capable of having a lot of fun on their own even without the aid of toys. However, this is a crucial time to watch them. Although, their movement has improved their sense of danger isn’t fully developed.

To select a toy for older toddlers you must pick things that engage their hands and fingers. Toys that require more precise and intelligent actions are best.

Examples of toys for Older Toddlers are Construction sets, objects to sort by size, shape, and color, balls, low climbers with soft materials underneath, child-sized furniture, dolls with clothes and accessories. 

Preschoolers: Age 3-6

At this age, children begin to be more interactive and curios. The questions would just keep coming. Their taste in toys also changes, some even taking a keen interest in cartoons and technology. Another major change that occurs is that they start to interact and play more as groups. So as much as you want your child's toy to be entertaining and educating you also want them to be multiplayer and friendly.

Example of toys for preschoolers: Tricycle, dolls and other accessories including a dollhouse, puzzles, toy cars and toy trains, action figures, construction paper, etc.

School Age: Age 6-12

Children of this age are independent and outspoken. They start building their character and personality around this stage. During this period, the toys you choose for your child goes a long way in aiding or hampering their mental development.

Toys that aid mental development, while giving them a break from the boredom of school is most recommended.

Examples of toys for School Age are Bicycle, board games, Video games, Toy Train, Football, etc.

Check out these toy buying guides:

Young Teenager: Age 12-16

At this stage of life, children become more aware of their individuality. Naturally, teenagers are picky especially with toys. Your teenager would most likely communicate exactly what he/she wants. It is your job however as a parent to investigate and judge if your child’s demand is safe. At this stage you can’t just go into a store and wing it by picking any toy you feel drawn too. Chances are that your pick might be rejected by your child or affect his mental and emotional space negatively.

Therefore, a short consultation with your child followed by adequate screening and investigation is the perfect recipe. Safety, mental and physical development, as well as proper entertainment content, are the main factors to look out for.

Examples of Toys for Young Teenagers: Bicycles, Gaming consoles, Computers, Chess, etc.

Check out these toy product guides:


Gender Consideration

During infancy, you don’t have to give much consideration to your baby's gender and special interest while selecting a toy. However, as your child grows up his/her taste changes and becomes more specific. With a lot of backlash against toys not been gender-neutral, and the blue and pink color scheme stereotype, selecting the right toy for your little one requires a high level of sensitivity.

Therefore, as parents, we must keep an eye out for what our children show interest in and provide the appropriate toys. Although gender stereotypes such as boys preferring action figures and girls preferring dolls sometimes hold, we parents mustn’t base our toy buying decisions on them. Our toy buying decisions must be based on the interest of our children as individuals, to help them build their potential and natural talents.


FAQ about Buying Toys for Kids

Is Play-Doh a Safe Toy?

If you have a little artist on your hand then one toy that your child would love to get his hands on is a Play-Doh. Fun to use, pliable and very durable, Play-dohs are every child artist's dream. However, the question is how safe is it. Children tend to put things in their mouth especially at a young age. So when you have an easy to bend a tear toy safety becomes a serious issue.

Although Play-Doh is not edible, it has been designed to be safe. It is non-toxic, non-allergic and non-irritating. However as safe as it seems to be, it is still advisable that you only make it available to an old toddler and under your direct supervision.

Is Television Time Harmful To My Child’s Health and Development?

Depending on your child’s age a little bit of screen time isn’t bad. However, it is advisable to keep young toddlers away from the television and other screens as their eyes aren’t ready for excessive exposure to bright lights. Doctors recommend introducing television and other screens to children at the age of 2 and allowing only one or two hours for screen time daily.

With the level of technological development, this is almost impossible. All we can do as parents is to ensure that our kid’s exposure to technology is controlled and moderated.


Conclusion

As parents and caregivers, we must consider a lot of factors before allowing a toy into our children's play space. One major way to check if a toy is safe for your child is to carefully read the label. Most toys come with age recommendations. The age range of toys is usually based on safety, so provided you buy a toy with the appropriate age range your child should be fine.

However, label reading is the first step in this colossal task. Sometimes you might have to go the extra mile and do more in-depth research, especially for toys that aren’t popular. Most importantly, beyond your research and careful selection is your keen monitoring of your child. Always keep an eye on your child, especially when a new toy is introduced. Children are very intelligent and creative. This intelligent creativity can lead them to find ways of using the most plain and simple objects in ways we have never imagined.