How to buy toys for the kids in your life

Allen Foster

When playing a game with your child, it is important to allow them to win, because it builds confidence and bolsters self-esteem. However, winning at all costs is not a desirable trait. It is up to the adult to teach balance, so playing remains fun no matter what the outcome of the game may be.

As you grow up, the business of life can make you lose touch with what it was like to be a carefree kid. Also, what was fun when you were younger might no longer interest a modern child. Consequently, this can make the simple act of buying a toy seem daunting.

But buying toys shouldn’t be a stressful task. On the contrary, it should be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and the child. To make that happen, there are a few strategies you can employ to help find a toy that will not wind up forgotten at the back of the closet.

Whether you are an uncle, an aunt, a grandparent, a parent or a friend, here are a few tips on how to buy toys for the kids in your life.

Questions to ask before buying a toy

What is the age of the child?

Manufacturers recommend their toys for a specific age range for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is safety—a toy with small parts can be hazardous for younger children to play with. Beyond safety, however, toys have a level of complexity that is suitable for different ages. For example, a 5-year-old child may be ready for some LEGO sets, but they won’t be ready for a model rocket kit. Know the age of the child and only select toys that are labeled as appropriate for that age.

What is the purpose of the toy?

Toys can have a number of different purposes. Some are meant to be a distraction, while others are designed to reduce a child’s anxiety or stress. Many popular toys are educational. These types of toys can teach your child how to behave socially or allow them to dig deeper into an educational pursuit. And, of course, there are toys that help your child explore their creativity and develop their imagination. Considering the purpose of a toy can help you narrow down your options to make selecting the best one a little easier. 

What type of playing does the child enjoy?

Each child is different. Some children like to engage in physical activities, while others are content to build a puzzle or make something with an arts and crafts kit. Think about what makes a child’s eyes light up — is it a football or finger paints? — and use that as a general basis to select an activity that they will enjoy.

Is this a toy for one or more children?

When selecting the perfect toy, consider whether the child will be playing with it by themselves or with friends, siblings or parents. Choosing a game that requires multiple players can help nurture a child’s social skills. On the other hand, choosing a toy that a child can play with on their own can help them develop their independence.

Does the child have specific interests?

Paying attention to a child’s interests is a great way to know how to target the ideal toy. Does the child have a favorite animal? A favorite TV show or movie? A favorite story? Knowing this can help you decide if buying a toy dinosaur is better than purchasing a “Paw Patrol” toy.

Are there any practical aspects you need to consider?

While a toy needs to be appropriate for the child, it also must be something that parents can live with as well. For example, if the child’s caregivers have a small house or apartment, a large playhouse might not fit in the home. A loud electronic toy may be a distraction that decreases the productivity of parents who work from home. Also, purchasing a toy that requires batteries or has a great deal of waste may be undesirable for parents who are trying to minimize their carbon footprint.

Is the toy a good deal?

While you want to make sure you purchase a toy that engages the child and makes them happy, you also need to consider your own budgetary concerns. One way to know if you are getting a good deal is to follow the prices of a specific product. Since that can be time-consuming and may not be where an adult wishes to place their focus, a better strategy is to sign up for the BestReviews email newsletter. This newsletter alerts you to new products and noteworthy deals, so you know for certain when it is the best time to buy.

Top toys for 2021

L.O.L. Surprise Tweens Fashion Doll Fancy Gurl: available at Amazon

This L.O.L. Surprise toy is a 6-inch fashion doll that features 15 surprises and is perfect for the child who has a creative flair. The set comes with all the accessories needed for Fancy Gurl to make an impact on the runway.

Kinetic Sand Construction Site: available at Amazon and Staples

This seemingly magical sand provides an exhilarating tactile experience for your child. It sticks together so it can be molded into a variety of shapes and never dries out. This set includes a crane and a dump truck that has a three-brick mold.

Magic Mixies Magical Misting Cauldron: available at Amazon

For the child who dreams of wielding real magic, this innovative new toy allows them to create their own plush Magic Mixie. The Magic Mixie can interact with your child in a number of ways. The kit comes with a spellbook and potions along with a light-up, misting cauldron that is used to make the Magic Mixie.

Fidget Spinner Pop Toy: available at Amazon

This fidget spinner also features dimples that your child can endlessly manipulate. It can be used to soothe a child who is experiencing sensory overload, focus a child with ADHD or help engage an idle child.

LEGO Speed Champions Ferrari F8 Tributo: available at Amazon and Kohl’s

This spectacular LEGO kit is designed for kids ages 8 and up who are into racing cars. The build-and-play kit makes an exciting replica of the superfast Ferrari F8 Tributo.

Minecraft: available at Amazon

Minecraft is one of the most creative games available today. If your child likes to engage in online world-building that has limitless possibilities, this is a solid option.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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