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Buy Baby Toys That Last

The Dollar Stretcher |26, January 2001


So, how are the Christmas toys holding up at your house? Are they worth the money spent on them? Being played with? Enriching your child's life?

If you're among those thinking you could have made some better choices, vow to make next year different. Start learning and planning now. It's easy to choose toys with great lasting power once you learn what makes a good toy. My stance is it's frugal to spend big bucks on toys with lasting play value. It's wasteful to spend pennies on toys that don't get played with and add no value to a child's life.

The case for good toys

It's a truism that a crafts person is only as good as her tools. For children, playthings are tools with which they learn about their world. There are basic toys, just as there are basic clothes that become the backbone of your wardrobe. You judge a piece of clothing based on cost per wearing and that's a good way to judge a toy. Some basic toys are expensive and brand name toys cost more than imitations. Clothing bargains are the good quality, adaptable, multipurpose pieces you wear over and over, knowing that you feel and look good each time. Per wearing, they end up costing peanuts. With a few guidelines, you can learn to spot the toys that will wear longest, be most versatile and suit a broad range of ages.

Your Baby At Play

One way to learn is by watching children at play. Search out the best dependent toy store in your area and visit. Note what attracts small shoppers. If there's a Brio wooden train display, notice how many children are crowded around the table, each happily absorbed, even though the displayed track layout is glued down to prevent theft. (Used as designed, Brio can easily keep a group of variously aged kids happy an entire morning.)

Just as you choose some garments for their quality and commit to taking good care of them, you can invest in high quality toys and require that they be well cared for. That means that when you buy a toy, you plan for it's care by deciding where and in what it will be stored. Toys need to be accessible, easy to put away. Each toy needs a place of it's own. Dumping everything in a toy box decreases the value of your investment through lost parts, broken toys and disrespect for belongings in general.


You care for things of value. Caring for people and things is taught by example. Children do what you do, not what you say they should do. Teaching a child to care for things is part of the gift you're giving them. It teaches respect for the riches our planet provides and develops their appreciation of precision, craftsmanship and beauty.

Here are some guidelines offered by Community Playthings, a company which makes individually crafted wooden equipment for commercial day cares, but also sells to individuals. Their catalog will give you a new way of looking at your children's possibilities. (catalog: 1-800-777-4244 fax: 1-800-336-5948)

Good Playthings:

- Have as little detail as possible. They're simple.

- Involve the whole child; body, mind and spirit. They encourage pretending.

- Stimulate the child to do things for herself. Watching it on TV isn't the same as doing it yourself!

- Encourage involvement.
A large dump truck can carry large and varied load and/or passengers. A specialized vehicle, like a backhoe, can do one thing. Toys with batteries rob a child of do-it-himself opportunities.

- Are open-ended; versatile.
This is the key. Great toys can be used many ways and all of them are "right". That's why they're a good play value.

- Encourage cooperative, dramatic play.
Two or more kids see a baby doll with a doll bed, and soon an entire household is created. A truck, a couple of hardhats and some dirt or sand becomes a building project that engrosses them all afternoon. Add animals, people and vehicles to unit blocks and a half- dozen children of different ages are suddenly building a freeway system, a farm or an entire town.

-Work as expected, are durable and safe.
This characteristic is what makes quality toys worth the expense. Often, this means paying for the real thing rather than a cheaper knockoff. Knowing the real thing from the imitators requires some willingness to do your homework, just as you do when you buy a big ticket item for your home.)

- Are made of material that is warm and pleasant to touch.
Natural materials such as wood, natural fibers, water, sand, and clay are a pleasure to the senses. They are satisfying to the touch and soothing to the spirit.

- Generous in proportions and quantity.
There's nothing cheesy about a good plaything. They're big enough, easily manipulated, and solid-feeling.

Reprinted with permission, The Dollar Stretcher

The Dollar Stretcher is a weekly column for people looking for ways to save time and money. With Over 900 Free articles to improve your life, "The Dollar Stretcher" is dedicated to "Living Better.For Less". You'll find advice on how to care for your car, balance your budget or whip up an inexpensive dinner. Tips for babies, weddings and vacations.

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