There are so many new toys that come out every year and every year around this time the major parenting magazines publish their picks - right in time for holiday shopping! How convenient! But, unfortunately they usually pick toys from the BIG conglomerate stores. Companies such as Fisher-Price, Playskool, and more don't always make the best toys. To unsuspecting parents these toys may seem well thought out, but may not always be the right thing for a child. Here are some examples:
While tummy time is great for development and building the skills needed to crawl, the Lamaze Spin & Explore Garden is not the way to accomplish it. The concept seems good but here are the problems: First, babies will not learn to roll over in this, and if they do they will topple right over. Second, they won't learn to push themselves up using their arms and knees which helps build and strengthen muscles in the arms, back, neck, and legs which are necessary for crawling. Third, when babies get tired, as most do when on their tummies, there is nothing to rest their head on for a moment to regain strength. Fourth, would you like to spend time in this thing? It doesn't even look comfortable!
Instead, I recommend a blanket or play mat with a propped up mirror made for this purpose, babies love to look at themselves and will be able to build the necessary muscles without the extra gear and discomfort.
This Smart Cycle from Fisher-Price is already a big hit! But beware-- this is disguised as an active toy but is really just another video game console. Instead of cycling inside while playing a game, children need to be outside enjoying nature. Kids need to see their parents outside too, so grab your bikes and helmets for some real activity--outdoors. The best way to instill an active lifestyle in your children is to model it yourself. If children are parked in front of the TV with a bike they will learn to associate exercise with entertainment. As we all know, the point of exercise should not be to entertain, but to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I do not recommend this "smart cycle" at all!
Fisher-Price, again making everything electronic, has come out with the I Can Play Guitar geared to ages 6 and up. Fisher-Price notes that your child will learn skills that "transfer easily to learning how to play a "real" guitar," but after a child becomes bored and unmotivated with this "fake" guitar, what would want to make him transfer to a real one? While it claims to teach such things as "strumming, chords, and finding notes on the fret board, as well as basic rhythm and timing skills" it is just another plug-in game console! Why not get a real guitar, which run about the same amount for a beginner, and some lessons? Instead of being "rewarded with neat accessories for his or her game character," let your child reward him or herself and build their own character with the knowledge and accomplishment of learning to play a real instrument. That is something to truly be proud of. Then, if their is a real talent, you can move on to an electric guitar later.
BEWARE OF CHARACTER TOYS
Character toys are everywhere, do a search in Amazon for "Dora" and it turns up over 900 results! We are all tempted by these toys, they're often cute and our kids love them! BUT- a warning, these toys take away from the child's own imagination. If a child has seen a Dora episode, for example, they are more likely to act it out in their "Dora Doll House" than they are to come up with their own scenario. However, if the child has let's say, a generic doll house, with no preconceived ideas of who the characters are, he or she will act out whatever their imagination dreams up. Imagination and make believe are SOOOOO important in young children. There is a very high correlation between intelligence and creative thinking, so let your children dream up whatever they want, whenever they want.
Note: Dora was just an example of a character toy. Others include Sponge Bob, Diego, Curious George, and movie characters. I will have more about character toys later, I detest them and could go on for awhile.
**I will continue to update this list as I find new toys to critique. In the meantime there are a few I want to shout out about!
If you are interested in having me review your product on my blog please email me at thetoysnob(at)gmail(dot)com!