The toy season is upon us again. There are so many toys and advertisements.
I've also noticed lists this year: The Top 10 Toys, The Hottest Toys, The Worst Toys, The Most Dangerous Toys, The Best
Natural Toys and on and on. This media blitz probably drives a lot of what's purchased, whether the toys are good for
children or not.
The best toys of 2009, as decided by BestToysGuide.com include a D-Rex 2.0 mechanical dinosaur; a Razor Pocket Rocket
bike for kids to ride; Automoblox Minis, which are basic wooden race cars with some updated additions; the new Lego
Star Wars Toys; Playskool Kota and Pals Monty Rex, a cuddly bedtime dino-buddy; the Nerf N-Strike Raider CS-35 gun and
ammo; the Kickboard Mini Kick Scooter for younger children; the Imaginext Batcave with Batman and Robin for toddlers;
and the Air Hogs Switchblade flying machine that takes off vertically and hovers. What a strange list!
The Worst List, by the World Against Toys Causing Harm group, contains: the Disney-Pixar Wall-E Foam Rocket Launcher,which has a potential for eye and other impact hazards with its launching system; Moon Board Pogo Board, which can
cause head and impact injuries with its elastic cord; Curious Baby George Counting First Book of Numbers, which
contains a choking hazard in the rod that holds it together; The Dark Knight Batman figure with its two pointed ears
for blunt impact and penetration injuries; X-men Origins Slashin' Action Wolverine, whose rigid, pointed claws with 1½"
protrusions include no warnings on its label; Lots to Love Babies mini nursery, with its plastic cord shower
connection, with potential for choking; Just Kidz Junior Musical Instruments, with more cords for choking, and more.
The hottest" toy this year is something called Zhu Zhu Pet, an electronic hamster with lots of paraphernalia to climb
through, spin on and travel to. Interesting that the mechanical version is a hotter seller than the real thing.
This all seems so overwhelming. Do people really guide themselves in choosing toys by the media - what's hot or not? Or
do we know our kids a bit better than that, and realize what gives them joy? Do we know what will extend their learning
about themselves and their world? What toys give them the neurological connections to develop their brains? And
I still believe the basics are best:
Dolls and animals (stuffed or real) to develop empathy, socialization and life skills.
Blocks and vehicles to engage imagination, creativity and animation.
Creative and dramatic items, such as scarves and costumes.
Open-ended art materials.
Well-made sports equipment.
Music, books, puzzles and games.
Outdoor things to encourage being in the natural world.
wonderful things are right in front of us, or tucked in memories from our own childhoods.
Martha McClellan has been an early childhood educator, director and administrator for 32 years. She is currently
consulting with and supporting early care providers.
Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.