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Toy Shopping | Best Toys for Kids Age 1-7

Updated on December 20, 2011
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy has been working in the field of education for many years specializing in both Waldorf and Montessori methodology.

© Copyright 2011 Tracy Lynn Conway with all rights reserved.

Another holiday season is rolling around and it is time for parents to choose holiday toys for their children.

When choosing gifts for their child most parents consider:

  • their child's wish list
  • their own ideas of what the children would like
  • and perhaps some educationally directed toys that may be a benefit to their child

Most often, even after carefully choosing toys, no matter how much time and effort parents spend on making the choice, the life of most of these toys is fairly short. Most toys being sold today involve a quick turn over of overpriced items that are heavily marketed to both parents and children. One year my son loved dinosaurs and wanted the whole collection of animated dinosaur toys ranging in price from $30-$100 dollars, he was interested in dinosaurs for some time but the expense still didn’t seem justified. At $100 dollars a pop, an American Girl Doll will empty your wallet practically before you finish selecting the eye color of the Just Like Me Doll for your sweet daughter. And at over $100 dollars a doll you will find yourself wondering “how will I ever save for college?”

In an effort to sell more toys, some toy companies tout their products as educational and parents buy into this, I know I did. With my first child I actually bought into this idea that I could 'educate' my child with a certain toy. I remember buying Baby Einstein videos that were supposed to expose my children to a foreign language while watching toys move around on the screen and an electronic music game where my child was supposed to move blocks around that played various classical music. The problem with the video is that study after study shows that kids, and especially children under 2, should not be watching TV but rather engaging in real world activities. The problem with the music toy was that it was also minimally engaging and therefore didn’t really hold my child’s attention. I would have been better off purchasing a few musical instruments and playing some classical music CD’s for her.

Another marketing strategy that most parents don't realize is that the toys are often being sold to the parents. Many toys feed into an idea of what the parent imagines would be fun to play with, but adults have matured and are no longer able to play as a young child does. Childhood play is something that human beings learn from and grow away from. If you compare the play of a 3 year old with that of a 6 year old you will see that the older child has a more sophisticated way of playing. Since adults have grown away from this part of their lives they can't really envision what a child needs to play with and then are easily manipulated by advertising. Many toys are simply designed to put money in the pockets of toy manufacturers and I believe there is an injustice done to parents, especially new parents that don’t know better.

I have since learned that it is real basic toys that are the best things for kids.

The best toys for kids are the ones with the greatest possibilities, these are the ones that make the child think and create their own ideas of how to play. A plain wooden truck can turn into a police car, ambulance, school bus, pet mobile etc. The child decides, not the toy manufacturer. When children engage with open ended toys they have to ask themselves questions like “what do I want this truck to be?” they can role play with ideas from their life experience, this internal dialogue turns out to be the building blocks of a life skill known as executive function, it is this function that helps people with things like self-control and knowing who they are. In an article on the topic of children’s play by National Public Radio writer Alix Spiegel states:

It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.

In the novel The Love of Seven Dolls a toy maker gives a young girl a piece of wood and says to her "For your first born...(here)... "is a toy I have made for him that is not yet any, yet is still all toys, for in his imagination when he plays with it, it will be whatever he sees in it, or wishes it to be."

Waldorf Educators have hit the nail on the head when it comes to what kids need in the toy department. Toys like wooden blocks, nondescript vehicles, dolls, dress up clothes offer not only toys that allow the child to engage their imagination; these toys will be around for a long time. A set of wooden blocks my still be a bit expensive but they will last and be played with by the children in the family whether they are male or female. If Toys- R-Us only sold the toys that children really played with the stores would be a fraction of the size they are today.

Waldorf Suggested Toys

AGES 1-3

  • Dolls
  • A basket for a doll bed
  • Soft Balls
  • Basket of logs
  • Soft Animals
  • Push Wagon

AGES 3-4

  • Simple dolls
  • Doll bed
  • Doll house
  • Dress up clothes including *Hats *Jewelry *Old purse *Old gloves
  • Child size broom and other cleaning tools
  • Table with fabric that can turn into a store, house, shop etc. by imaginative minds
  • Paper and crayons
  • Play dough

AGES 5-7

  • Dolls
  • Puppets
  • Project basket with *construction paper * whole puncher *yarn *tape *paper clips
  • Fabric/silks
  • Dress up clothes
  • Wooden blocks
  • Hard animals
  • Paper and crayons
  • Clay
  • Bees Wax

Outdoor Ideas

  • Buckets
  • Shovels
  • Rake
  • Ball
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Wagon

Also suggested

  • Lego

Source of Waldorf suggested toys: Anonymous

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