Most of us have been there before. You open the mailbox to find a brightly colored invitation to the birthday party of your favorite two year old. You hang the invitation on the refrigerator with great intentions to stop at the toy store after work to buy a great birthday gift. Several weeks later, you realize the party starts in 2 hours and you have yet to get the perfect gift. You jump in the car, race to the toy store, and run inside. Suddenly, you are surrounded by a sea of remarkable toys and start to panic! Take a deep breath and slow down for just a minute. These five tips will help you choose the perfect educational toy and get to the party in time.
First, be sure to buy a toy that is for a toddler. Sure, their parents may tell you that their child is so advanced, that they should be in third grade by now. But let’s face it; you should buy a toy that’s fit for a two year old. Otherwise, the child may not be interested in it, and end up just playing with the box. Also, it is important that they toy is in the right age range for the child to make sure it is safe. Little hands and mouths are not safe around toys with little detachable parts. Most toy stores arrange their products by corresponding age ranges, so head straight to the section designed for the child you have in mind.
Next, think about choosing a gift that allows parents to interact with their child to build skills important for later academic success. It is important for toddlers to be exposed to letters, letter sounds, and numbers. Look for brightly colored blocks, oversized flashcards, or puzzles with letters and numbers that may also have a tactile component like a fuzzy duck or shiny moon. Some phonological based toys also talk or sing to children. Parents always enjoy helping their child explore and create with oversized paper and crayons, or clay.
Third, to please both parent and child, shop around for great toddler books. Books made especially for toddlers are typically ones made from thick cardboard. They may have pop-up characters, animals with fur that kids can pet, and flowers with a scratch-and-sniff scent. It is important for parents to read to their children to introduce them to language and ideas, and also to instill a sense that reading and learning are important. Books also provide great bonding moments between parents and children.
Next, remember not to overdo it. Sure, it is tempting to try and pick out the biggest and best gift that will be at the party. It is always flattering when the birthday boy or girl latches on to the gift you presented, and barely lets go long enough to finishing opening the rest! But, the size of the gift and the amount of money you spend is not as important as the impact that your gift may have on that particular child. Choose something that will stimulate their minds and spur their development.
Last but not least, think creatively when shopping for educational toys for toddlers. Maybe you could try a plant that they can learn to love, water, and care for, along with their very first watering can. Or perhaps they would enjoy a wardrobe of dress-up clothes, so they can pretend to be a soldier, astronaut, or athlete.
When you are racing through the toy store on the way to another great birthday party, remember to choose a stimulating and creative toy that is age appropriate for your little friend. Just don’t forget to grab some wrapping paper on the way to the cash register.