Toys that Keep Kids Engaged
If you are a parent or grandparent who includes gift giving in your celebration of the holidays, you are probably familiar with the enthusiastic reaction kids have when they see piles of brightly wrapped packages waiting to be opened. Those moments of hyper-charged anticipation when excited children can barely contain themselves—just before the pandemonium begins—add to the holiday magic for some families.
Yet many families experience a let down after all the gifts are unwrapped and all the must-have toys are assembled or plugged in or filled with the required number of size AA batteries. The same child who asked over and over for that heavily advertised ultra-popular toy plays with it for a while…then quickly loses interest.
Is there any antidote to this pattern of children desperately wanting particular toys, only to get bored by them within hours or a couple of days of unwrapping them?
One solution starts with changing the focus when you are selecting toys for a child. It’s not about what advertising has convinced the child he or she must have. It’s about thoughtfully selecting a product that fits the child’s developmental level and true interests. If the toy is a good fit with strong play value, it won’t end up in the flash-in-the-pan pile at the bottom of the toy box.
Here are several suggestions for choosing toys that can hold a child’s attention.
- Focus on the play, not the toy. Rather than evaluating the features of the toy, think about the features of the play that the toy will encourage. Said another way, good play—and the likelihood that a child will maintain interest in a toy—is about what the child can do with the toy, not what the toy can do.
- Find products that let kids make up the story. Look for toys that leave room for the child to use her imagination. Though it may seem to adults that electronic gadgetry in a toy or connection with a television character makes it more interesting, often the opposite is true. Toys with minimal “bells and whistles” engage a child more fully because she gets to make up the story and the play routine all by herself. And what child doesn’t like that?
- Give gifts that foster different types of play. When you are shopping for holiday gifts, think about assembling a group of toys that offer a “balanced diet of play” that will encourage a child to use and explore all parts of himself: his developing muscles—both the large running around and climbing ones and the smaller, more refined hand muscles; his brain; his growing speech and language skills; and his ability to play well with others, to be compassionate, and to solve problems.
- Consider limiting television, especially around the holidays. Time for free play is a wonderful and healthy alternative to television and by avoiding its constant barrage of advertising, parents can help control the holiday “gimme’s.” Many communities have an array of fun family-oriented activities around the holidays that can also divert children from focusing on the toy of the moment—and keep them more open to more engaging play materials that fit their developmental levels.