What Makes a Good Toy?

Young girl on floor with toys

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This is a question every parent should ponder--and probably has. When we spend our hard-earned cash on a toy for our kids, we want to be sure it provides not only good value and, but more importantly, good play that inspires and educates our children. And for work-at-home moms, that means an extra emphasis on toys that inspire independent play, 

Characteristics of a Good Toy

  • Inspiring for the imagination. This is the number one criteria. A child who is using his or her imagination to spin fantastical scenarios will stay busy longer and learn more than a kid playing with a toy with more narrow creative parameters. And toys that inspire imagination are very often simpler and less expensive than those that don't.
  • Simple. The simpler the toy the more room there is for creativity. Wooden blocks become skyscrapers. Most, but not all, of the playthings considered here, are not electronic. This is because electronic toys can be short on imagination and long on complexity. Also, they are more apt to break, which makes them a poor value too. However, there are some electronic toys that are considered good toys.
  • Challenging. Just because a toy is simple doesn't mean it can't challenge your child. Kids need to be actively using their brains or they get bored. So a toy that makes kids think will get played with more often and for longer.
  • Not easily breakable. Obviously, a sturdy, well-made toy is what parents want to spend their money on. And kids appreciate that too. If it’s a good toy then kids will want to play with it for years, which, of course, can’t be done if it breaks within the first few weeks or months.
  • Age appropriate. Give your child a toy that is too complex for his or her age level, and it will stay at the bottom of the toy box long after the child has grown old enough to play with it. Or worse, you’ll be doing all the “playing.” We all want our kids to excel, but sometimes it’s better for them to play (and learn) independently with a toy meant for a younger child than getting frustrated with something so complicated that it negates their sense of independence.