Campus: CSU Northridge -- November 16, 2001

CSUN Professors Offer Some Tips for Holiday Toy Shopping

And they're off! Each year it seems like a race and a treasure hunt combined into one as parents and grandparents struggle to find the perfect holiday toy.

Three Cal State Northridge professors have offered tips on how to cut down the stress of holiday shopping that will leave a smile on your child's face, and maybe even on yours.

"Take control of gift giving for your family by providing choices that are creative, imaginative and fun," said Veda Ward, chair of CSUN's Department of Leisure and Recreation Studies. "Instead of selecting only the most commercially popular toys for your children, conscientiously search for ones that are developmentally appropriate, and which will plant the foundations for independence, learning and social responsibility."

Alyce Blackmon, chair of CSUN's Department of Family Environmental Sciences, said the holidays are a perfect time for parents and grandparents to look back upon their own childhoods and remember what gifts made them happy.

"Even before Sept. 11, people seemed to be looking back at the 'good old days' and looking for comfort items," Blackmon said. "Sept. 11 just brought those feelings out even more. And in respect to holiday toy shopping, I think parents and grandparents are going to be thinking back on their own childhoods and the kinds of toys that stimulated them and that they enjoyed."

Blackmon predicted that dolls are going to be a popular item this year.

"And I'm not talking about Barbie," she said. "Barbie's not really a comfort item. I'm talking about stuffed animals and other soft toys. Or toys with nostalgia attached to them, like Lincoln Logs or erector sets."
Barbara Hill, director of the university's Child and Family Studies Lab, suggested that parents and grandparents ask themselves some basic questions before they make any purchases:

Is the toy safe? Is it washable? Will it last? Will it cause frustration? Is the toy interesting? Can it be used alone? And most importantly, is the toy fun and is it appropriate to the age of my child?

"Avoid television and commercially driven children's toys," Hill said. "They tend to discourage creativity and often times encourage violence and passivity."

Hill and Ward have some age-appropriate suggestions for the types of toys parents and grandparents might consider as they begin their holiday shopping:

  • Birth to crawling - mirrors, musical or colorful mobiles, crib gyms, teethers, cloth blocks and clutch balls;

  • One year to 18 months - simple, sturdy riding toys with no pedals, surprise boxes, balls, small wooden blocks, stacking toys, toys for the bath, books and music;

  • 18 months to two years - simple indoor gyms, hammering toys, telephones, puzzles with knobs, pull toys, shape sorters, people figures, a pail and shovel, books and music;

  • Two to three years - children's musical instruments, bristle blocks, pegs and pegboards, large wood beads for stringing, dolls, doll carriages, cars and construction trucks, paper, markers, crayons, chalk, chalkboard, books and music;

  • Three to four years - tricycles, hardwood blocks, Legos, marble run, sewing boards, dramatic play kits such as doctors and firefighters, tea sets and a grocery store, arts and crafts materials such as crayons, chalk, chalkboard and books and music; and

  • Four to five years - an outdoor swing set, games, big wheels, tool sets, Lincoln logs, play tiles, a children's tape recorder, books and music.

As children get older, Ward suggested educational toys, such as "maps, puzzles, games and even dolls that reflect a variety of world cultures and enhance the child's awareness of geography and the full spectrum of diversity."

"For older children, provide journals, diaries, blank tapes and CDs to encourage individual creative expression instead of mindless consumption of mass-marketed teen-focused media," she said.

"Most of all, in these stressful times, create a nurturing and comfortable environment for your children," Ward said. "Cook together - make nutritious but zany appetizers from fruits and vegetables. Invite the neighbors for multi-cultural buffets, barbecues or holiday celebrations. Adult family members must model the values and patterns of behavior that support healthy lifestyles and life-long learning through creative expressions in free time activities, hobbies and recreation. And hey, parents….don't forget to have fun!"

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