By Sally Farhat | CTW Features
You know the drill: you get to the toy section of the store, get confused, grab something that looks fun, and leave. Then, you cross your fingers. Will the child like it? Do they already have one? It’s not easy to buy the younger ones in your life a Christmas gift. But hopefully, with our guide, it will be a little easier this year. That’s because we’ve talked to experts about the hottest trends and have broken down where a child is developmentally to help create a foolproof way to buy children’s gifts.
The number one advice we got? Ask, ask, ask. “Say, I want to get something this child is really going to use. Can you guide me in any way?” says Melissa Bernstein, one half of toymaker Melissa & Doug. “For example, my kids love princesses, so anything related to princesses they are going to like.”
Here’s our breakdown:
Babies Under 1 Year
Where they’re at, developmentally:
Newborns love color and patterns with a lot of contrast. From about 4 to 7 months they can see more clearly and their motor skills improve – it’s easier for them to pick things up and shake them. From 9 to 12 months, they start to learn cause and effect (think stacking toys).
What they like: bright mobiles, rattles, soft balls, textured toys that make sounds, soft books, push toys. “Organic and eco-friendly toys are all the rage for babies,” says Amy Fierstein, vice president at The Cradle.com, a lifestyle destination for expectant and new parents.
Our suggestions: Earlyears Puppetivity Pal Interactive Activity Puppet (International Playthings); My First Taggies Puzzle lets you lift the circle to see a bee, find the bear under the square, and discover a mouse under the triangle (Taggies, $30); Bloomers Baby Diaper Cake, a three-tier tower with silk flowers ($68, or make one similar yourself).
Toddlers 1 to 3 Years
Where they’re at: Not only are they walking now, but these little ones can twist and turn objects they grab.
What they like: blocks, shape sorters, big wooden puzzles, trucks and large crayons. This is also when imagination develops. “Preschoolers love pretend play,” Bernstein says. Great examples include toy kitchen sets, telephones, dolls and dress-up clothes.
Our suggestions: The Belinda Iris doll laughs and cries, and her eyes blink. ($25, The Goldberger Company); Munchkin Sea & Learn Bath Shapes are made from foam and stick to the tub wall ($7.29, Munchkin); Lamaze Birdhouse Xylophone comes with a bird-shaped mallet ($20). A big trend is also anything related to dinosaurs and bilingual toys, since kids in this age group are beginning to talk. For a gift parents will love, check out FlattenMe’s books. Send in your child’s photo, and they will make him the star in their next book.
Children 4 to 7 Years
Where they’re at: They’re nearly school-age now, can draw well, have improved memory, can sort items into categories and love playing games with other children.
What they like: exercise-related games, especially outdoor activities. Since it’s winter now, anything that brings the outdoors in. And basics – think newer version of the toys you had as kids – are very “in” right now.
Our suggestions: “The Banzai Double Drop Falls Waterslide ($200, Crane Sports) is a best-selling item you can buy as a family,” says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of Toys & Family Entertainment. “Rather than spending money on water parks, parents can have them in their backyard.” Try the Jakks Pacific Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker ($30) or the Mrs. Goodbee Interactive Dollhouse, which incorporates role-play adventures that encourage caring, sharing and preparing for responsibilities. ($80, Learning Curve).
Kids and Tweens 8 to 12 Years
Where they’re at: It’s all about socializing and being with friends.
What they like: a big trend for this age group is toys tied into movies, such as Transformers, Speed Racer and Batman. Other popular ones are The Clone Wars (Star Wars) and Iron Man.
Our suggestions: Tiger Electronics’ U-DANCE game ($75), an updated Dance Dance Revolution-style game without the mat; Truth or Dare, a spin-off to the classic sleepover game ($25, Kubit2me) and Card Tricks Unshuffled Magic Set by Melissa & Doug ($40).Teens
Where they’re at: Being cool and hip.
What they like: electronics like iPods, iPhones and gaming systems like the Nintendo Wii. Lots of traditional games now have online tie-ins, a huge trend, so you can go online and download fun extras.
Our suggestions: Skip the electronics and get them a traditional board game. Silver says some hot ones are The Godfather Trivia Game ($20), The Price is Right DVD Game ($25, Endless Games), and the new Scene It! Based on “Seinfeld.” We like Zobmondo’s “Would You Rather?” game, which spurs silly conversations ($25).
Or skip the games completely. GurglePot ($40) is a new interpretation of a late 1800s gurgling pitcher made in England. Fill it with water, start pouring it and begin giggling – we did. Teens and tween girls love gift sets like Lush Bunty, pink bathing treats named after a British adventure comic for girls ($27, Lush Handmade Cosmetics) or bath soaps named things like “Honey I Washed the Kids” ($7.95).
Haven’t seen anything that strikes your fancy? Music is great for any age, as are books. With those, you really can’t go wrong.
© CTW Features