There are so many options out there. I really want to make sure that what we get is of value to the children. I want the toy to be fun, educational, and durable. By educational, I don't mean every toy needs to teach the ABCs. A toy can have educational value in my eyes if it inspires the imagination. That means every toy you give your child can be educational. So, on to my tips:
- Start Early: Any of you who are like my husband are probably groaning to yourselves. He commented to me the other day that if he were in charge of getting gifts, we would by them the day before. Starting early gives you time to seek out the best toys. It gives you time to shop around and get the best deals. It gives you time to research and really think it through. You can also spend your money wisely and cover all of the needs of your children.
- Vary the Toys: I like to cover a variety of categories in the toys. I will list those below.
- Don't Get To Much: Give yourself a dollar limit or something so you don't get too many toys. They don't need every toy ever made. They also don't need every toy in any one category. If you give yourself some kind of limit, you will find that you put more thought into what you get.
Here are the categories I try to fill as I get gifts. I don't necessarily fill every category at every gift-giving occasion. I like to try to keep things well rounded, though.
- Music: I love music and my children love music. I like to get a new CD for them to add to their music collection.
- DVD: We don't watch a lot of TV, but when we do, I like for it to be a DVD. That way, we have no commercials :). I will often get each child a DVD at holidays.
- Book: We have a whole lot of books. Even so, I like to get each child a new book. It lets them know I value books. I can also choose a book that is very age appropriate and very precise as to their current interests. It is a book for that specific child; geared exactly to him or her in that exact moment of life.
- Bath Toy: At each Christmas, I like to get a new bath toy for each child. This way, we can throw away old toys without feeling bad about it. Bath toys aren't really a long-term investment. They can get gross after a while.
- Outside Toys: Most of our outside toys are given at birthdays because our birthdays are in the Spring. I think about different fun toys for them to play with outside. I like to encourage outside play. I think about bicycles, bubbles, art activities, water play, sand play, balls, sporting equipment, tools for helping with work outside...
- Building Toys: There are a lot of types of building toys out there. Blocks, Lego's, Geo mags, knex, Lincoln logs...
- Kitchen: The kitchen really is a category that is ever-present for me. We started with the kitchen. We then added food. Then dishes. A shopping cart. This year, I am going to make hot pads, wash clothes, and aprons to go with the kitchen. Adding one new thing to a favorite can liven it up and make it like it is new all over again. This is one benefit to adding on slowly over time.
- Art: You can get coloring books, paints, play doh, pads of paper, crayons, easels...
- Little People: My husband and I both mark little people toys as some of our favorites from our childhood, so we like to give them as gifts at each holiday. At Christmas, we give one to all the children. At birthdays, we do one. You can get small little people items that are about 10 dollars. Also, the day after Thanksgiving sales always have lots of little people items on sale.
- Board Games: I like to add one game each Christmas. We like to play games as a family.
- Puzzles: Brayden was never overly thrilled with puzzles, but Kaitlyn really enjoys them.
- Learning Activities: You might want to add some learning activities. One year, I did flash cards in the stockings. I usually don't hit this category big at birthdays or Christmas. These are gifts I give throughout the year "just because."
- Religious Books: I like to give a religious book to each child at each Easter. I will choose children's Bibles and other scripture stories.
- Church Toy: I will often give a new church toy at each Christmas. Once again, something new offers a fresh look at things.
- Specific Categories: These are listed below. I will add to specific categories.
Here is a list of specific categories for you to consider for your children. Here is the beauty of the specific categories. When grandma asks what Bobby wants for Christmas, you can think through the categories. Say you want to get him a new Thomas the train item. So you say, "Bobby would love a new Thomas train. He has X,Y, and Z. He would love any of them." Then grandma has a good idea of what to get without you having to tell her precisely what to get (unless she wants to be told).
- Stuffed Animals
- Doll furniture
- Doll house
- Doll house furniture and items
- Dress up clothes
- Musical instruments
- Developmental toys: If you have a baby, consider the different developmental toys like shape sorters, pushing toys, pulling toys, pop-up toys, stacking toys, etc.
While I am deciding what to get, I choose a few toys from each category I want to cover. Then I go to Amazon and put everything that looks of interest to me in my wish list (I keep a list for each child). Then I can look over reviews and scrutinize each potential toy until I make my decision :).
Some of you might be wondering about where the opinion of my kids fits into this. Since my kids don't see commercials, they don't really ask for toys. Brayden is 4.5 and for the first time he has started to tell me what he wants for Christmas. Happily, they are things that were already on my list. I think it is good to consider your child's desires when you are choosing gifts. Just be sure the toy fits in with your values and morals. Be sure it is a toy that will have lasting enjoyment and isn't just some passing craze that will be old by the time Christmas gets here. Also, make sure it is a quality toy.
Good luck with your shopping! For more about specific toys, be sure to see the blog label Best Toys for Baby (includes toys for older children, too).