Want to avoid adding to the mountains of quickly forgotten plastic toys this Christmas?
Here’s some factors you should keep in mind to make a child’s gift truly worthwhile this festive season.
According to Leon Straker, a professor at Curtin University, it is important to stay away from the latest craze and stick to old favourites.
“The expectation is from children, and society, that we buy toys … for children, and I think that’s fine,” he told ABC Radio.
“But I think parents can really help children in being careful in what they are buying, and not just buying something because it is quick and easy.
“One of the fantastic things about children is that their bodies and their brains respond to the experiences that they have.
“So as parents and friends and relatives that are buying toys for children at Christmas, we need to be thinking about buying things that are going to help them build strong bodies and minds.”
Keep it simple
Toys that are complicated and have to be played with in a specific way may delight at first but don’t always offer opportunities to use the imagination and therefore may not occupy children for long.
“[Go] for a toy that is open-ended so it is up to the child to make a creative, imaginative game with the toy,” Professor Straker said.
“If they are unrestrained by what the packaging says they should do with the toy, that helps kids with their imagination.”
Toys belonging to TV or movie franchises can fit the bill, sometimes.
“Franchises are fine if kids are living in that imaginative, character world, that’s great, but look for something that gives them opportunities to make things and do things that aren’t constrained by what the franchise delivers,” he said.
Make it social
Some toys offer an opportunity for children to learn to play with others and develop their social skills.
“The other thing for families and friends to really look for in toys is something that the child can do with somebody else,” Professor Straker said.
“Playing with children is a really important part of the child growing up … understanding social interaction and having fun with other people.”
Also, look for toys that can also allow parents to play with their children from time to time.
“Every now and then, get down on their level and ask them if they would like you to play; that gives them that control.
“Then ask them what they are doing, what character would they like you to be, and ask can I build something with you?”
Work on motor skills and hand-eye coordination
Cricket sets, soccer balls, painting sets and wooden puzzles are old favourites and may still be the best picks this Christmas according to Professor Straker.
“Look for things in a physical sense that help them with their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills,” he said.
“Also toys that influence how a child moves around and help them kick, catch and throw.
“Some of the really simple things are the ones that actually give the child the most opportunity.”