Newswise — It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, toys in every store.
The sheer number of toys and stores and websites give shoppers looking for kids' presents bountiful options, but according to education Prof. Roberta Golinkoff of the University of Delaware, not all toys are created equal.
Golinkoff specializes in child development. She suggests shoppers move right past many electronic and “educational” toys, like Baby Einstein, and instead, pick up simpler (and cheaper) items like blocks and puzzles.
Too often, she notes, electronic toys seek just one right answer. Toys without instructions enable creativity and allow children to consider solutions to problems.
Watch a video of Golinkoff's recommendations: http://www.youtube.com/user/UnivDelaware#p/u/0/DlwlhS3wkQk
“Do you want your child to be the boss or do you want your child to be the drone?” she asks. “If you want your child to be the drone, don't worry about the development of creativity, just get them things where they have to fill in bubbles like in school.
“But if you want your child to be the boss. Then get them things that will help them think about new ways to solve problems.”
Other recommendations from Golinkoff:
-- Take adult clothes and alter them so children can wear them without tripping. Young children will spend countless hours playing dress up, engineering their own make-believe worlds.
-- Don't fall for the claims of some “educational” toys and learning programs. Ads that promise your infant can learn to read won't give your child an advantage, says Golinkoff. Your baby will gain more through human interactions.
-- Receiving too many gifts overwhelms children. Parents should give just a handful of gifts or put some presents aside until later in the year.
-- Get an appliance box. This free item gives the gift of endless possibilities. With a few crayons, kids can transform it into a fort, a house, or even a spaceship.
-- Give older kids puzzles or construction sets so they can discover new things and engage their minds.
Even with so many toys on shelves, no matter how much you shop, you won't find the best present in stores.
“You are your child's best toy,” Golinkoff says. “Make a vow that you are going to sit down half an hour every day and follow your child's lead -- and make sure to turn off your electronic device.”
Golinkoff is the H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education in the School of Education at the University of Delaware and co-author of the books Einstein Never Used Flashcards and A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool.
Her longtime collaborator, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University is also a co-author of the books.