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What Makes a Great Toy?

November 18, 2010
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Today’s post is a guest post written by Tammy Belcher. Tammy is the Founder and Executive Director of Giant Leaps Occupational Therapy, PC, a state-of-the-art pediatric treatment center in Valley Cottage, New York. Since 2004, Giant Leaps has helped hundreds of children develop motor, social, and cognitive skills, enabling them to succeed in typical childhood activities to their fullest potential. I personally been very impressed by the work that Tammy and her staff do, particularly with helping children understand the relationship between their bodies and their behavior ~ such an important skill for children to learn. I thought the topic of this article was particularly relevant as we head into the holiday season, with lots of toy purchases on the horizon.

What Makes a Great Toy

By Tammy Belcher, MS, OTR/L

The serious work of childhood is PLAY! Toys are the vital tools of children’s work. When building developmental skills, motivation and fun are huge factors! By creating an engaging experience that a child will want to participate in again and again, work–even really hard work–becomes play. Practice makes progress and builds mastery!

As you browse aisles, catalogs, and websites, here are some helpful questions to keep in mind for choosing the best tools for your child’s developmental work:

Will this toy sustain interest over time? If a toy has multiple uses and encourages creativity or dramatic play, the chances are better that your child will enjoy it for an extensive period.

Does it present an appropriate level of challenge? If it’s too hard, your child will want to give up. If it’s too easy, he’ll lose interest. Look for toys that target skills just beyond what your child has already mastered.

Will it foster emotional, intellectual, physical, and/or social development? Many toys that are naturally inviting to children help them grow in one or more of these areas and provide important opportunities for fun and learning.

Can your child play with this toy independently and with others?A versatile toy can be used for a child to entertain herself as well as for group play.

Does it build an important ability while remaining fun and engaging? Maybe your child has poor fine motor skills, but loves construction toys. Sometimes a toy can help your child increase essential skills without seeming like work at all!

Will this toy appeal to your child’s specific interests, personality, and learning style? If your daughter is a tomboy, resist the urge to buy her the pink dollhouse you loved as a child and choose something that will engage her sense of adventure.

Is it practical and safe? An appropriate toy should fit your budget and living space as well as ensuring safe, rewarding play opportunities for your child.

For information on the absolute best new and classic toys, check out our Recommended Toy reviews at

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