Choosing Toys for Children

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Toys

Some experts consider play time to be work for children, a critical part of their development. As work, kids need the right tools to get the job done well: good toys. We've selected some helpful Web sites that can teach you the importance of "child's play" and how to equip your kids with safe toys that will keep them happy, engaged, and active.

Choosing Toys for Children

Finding great toys for kids isn't exactly rocket science but it does take some thought. The age, interests, and abilities of the child are all important considerations because a toy that's too advanced may become frustrating, and toys that are too simple may quickly get boring. The sites in this section discuss childhood development and can help you assess what toys may be a good fit for your child.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Publications like Parents magazine and Parenting magazine devote entire sections of their sites to child development and toy selection for kids.
  • Product reviews can tell you a lot about an item before you purchase it, and most online stores include customer ratings and comments. If customer reviews are sparse at the site you're using or you'd like some professional reviews, see our findingDulcinea Product Reviews Web Guide for some excellent review sites.
  • Online toy stores divide their toys into categories in several ways, including age group, gender, and type of toy. Many also have a "most popular" or "best sellers" section that may help you narrow down your options if you aren't sure what toy to buy or if you can’t remember the exact name of the trendy toy your child has been asking for.
  • Part of choosing safe toys involves being a diligent label reader. However, this article from Forbes warns that too many "blanket warnings" on products (eg., toys with small parts pose a choking hazard) could ultimately make the warnings seem meaningless.

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For general guidance …
For toy safety considerations …
For children with special needs …
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Online Toy Shopping

If you’ve ever tried to navigate a toy store with children in tow, you understand the pleasure of buying toys online: no lines, no parking hassles, no trips to the bathroom, and best of all, no whining. Whether you’re shopping for your kids, someone else’s, or yourself, the following Web sites can help.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • When shopping online, make sure there is a padlock icon on the lower right of the browser (indicating a secure connection) before entering any personal or financial information. Also, look for Web site addresses that begin with “https” rather than just “http.” The “s” stands for “secure” and won’t typically appear until the checkout process. For more tips about becoming a savvy online shopper, visit our findingDulcinea Shopping Web Guide.
  • Before doing business with an unfamiliar online company, check its reputation with an organization like the Better Business Bureau, which works to protect consumers from fraudulent business practices.
  • National chain stores such as Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us all maintain Web sites where you can purchase toys, but don't limit yourself to the large franchises. The Web site for your favorite “Mom and Pop” toy store can be less overwhelming and may carry some items that the big box stores don’t.
  • You might not be thinking about buying an outdoor toy when winter is setting in, but doing so could save you some money. Brick-and-mortar stores have to clear their shelves to make room for inventory that's in season, but that's not an issue for online businesses, where you’re more likely to find an off-season bargain.
  • Not sure what to buy? Gift cards may be your answer. Most toy store Web sites sell gift cards and you'll probably even get free shipping when you order one.

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For online toy stores …
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Specialty Toy Stores

The value of toy stores that specialize in a certain item is that their selection and pricing options are often better than more mainstream stores. This section highlights some of the more specialized genres of toys available online, and the best places to get them.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • It's easy to get overwhelmed by the abundance of toy sites on the Internet. If you’re looking for something specific, use a specific search term: for example, "antique toy cars" or "handmade wooden toys." Remember that using quotation marks around your search term tells the search engine to find a site that contains that exact phrase. Otherwise, you may get sites with any arrangement of words from the phrase you type in.
  • If you’re looking for video games, music and movie stores like Amazon.com often have the best prices for new games, but you can do even better buying used games from video game specialists like the ones mentioned below.

Dulcinea's Picks

For educational toys …
For classic toys …
For vintage toys …
For art supplies …
For video games …
For toys that show diversity …
For wooden toys …
For other specialty Web sites …
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Make Homemade Toys

Homemade toys are generally more economical than store-bought toys, and likely come with a little more sentiment attached. If you’re feeling crafty or looking for a great project to do with your kids, use the sites we recommend here for ideas and instructions to make great kids toys at home.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • If you search for "homemade toys" on the Web, your results will be very scattered. Be much more specific with your search terms, using phrases such as "toy car patterns," or "doll patterns," for example.
  • If you watch any craft or do-it-yourself shows on television where you've seen homemade toys constructed, check the show's Web site for project patterns and instructions available online for purchase or even for free.
  • Just as when you are searching for the right toy from a toy store, homemade toys must be chosen and fashioned with the same eye toward safety. Look for Web sites that tell you the appropriate ages for children to safely make or use a particular homemade toy.
  • For additional ideas about homemade toys and other projects kids can create from home, read The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions. With the help of a few common household ingredients, kids can make their own stickers, a snow globe, scratch-and-sniff watercolors, and more.

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Toy Organization

If you’ve ever walked barefoot into your child’s room and stepped on a pointy toy, you understand the irritation that comes from owning more toys than your kids know what to do with. Before you add another room onto the house to accommodate your kids’ stuff, review the following Web sites for ideas about organizing the toys in your home and getting rid of the unused toys.

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  • Many state and local programs request toy donations for kids. Type your city or state name and "toy donation programs" into a search engine to find a program in your area. Also check with hospitals or charities such as the Ronald McDonald House, which may also need new or gently used toys.
  • If toys aren’t the only things in your home that could be better organized, see our findingDulcinea Home Organization Guide for other helpful tips about organizing your child's room (and the rest of your home).

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For storage and organization ideas …
For unused toys …
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Learn About Toy Recalls

In the wake of numerous toy recalls and problems with lead paint in toys, many parents are especially concerned about choosing toys that their children will be safe using. But with the abundance of recall reports and news stories, finding up-to-date, reliable information about toy safety can be a challenge. We've chosen some of the most credible Web sites for current recall information and toy safety advice.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Many toy makers will indicate if their toys comply with the standards of ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials), an international organization that develops global safety standards for a variety of products, including toys. Adherence to these standards is voluntary, but seeing this notice on the packaging of a toy may offer a little more assurance about the toy's safety.
  • Make the information come to you if you don't have enough time to search for news about recalls. Some toy companies and government agencies have e-newsletters and e-mail alerts you can subscribe to in order to stay on top of any developments.
  • Buying only American-made toys is one way to ensure you have purchased items manufactured under strict safety standards. This can be hard to do because not every online or offline toy store specified where its toys are made. However, findingDulcinea has created an online toy store filled with American-made toys from Amazon.com.
  • Beyond the Headlines, a section of findingDulcinea, explores Chinese-made toy recalls as well as lead poisoning symptoms and testing.
  • USA TODAY reports that, due to the toy recalls in 2007, the price of toys is likely to increase in the near future because of intensified efforts to make them safer.

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For toy recall information …
To learn about lead paint in toys …
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