SUNDAY, Dec. 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- When you're Christmas shopping for toys, ignore the latest fad, experts say. Instead, choose toys that promote healthy childhood development and reinforce personal relationships.
"It's important to look for toys that allow for creativity, imagination, manipulation, and change. If a toy is static and doesn't promote those concepts, it will probably end up in the corner," Roger Ideishi, professor of occupational therapy at the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, said in a prepared statement.
"Parents often feel like they have to rush out and get 'the toy of the moment,' " noted Paula Kramer, chair and professor of occupational therapy at the university. "These toys may be interesting, unique and novel, but they're not always the best thing for the child or the toy with the longest life."
When selecting a toy, consider the child's specific needs and interests. Look for toys that promote mental and physical development, such as building blocks/sets that help build fine motor skills and creativity.
Video games that encourage physical or mental activity may be good choices. And parents shouldn't hesitate to play these kinds of video games with their children.
"It's just like anything else. If your child asks you to do some coloring with them, you usually do it even if you don't want to, because the child seeks that interaction. It's the same thing when a child asks you to play a video game," Kramer said.
When selecting any kind of toy, it's important that they match the child's abilities.
"Look for toys that are either at their child's ability, or just above it. Then, they will grow with the toy and get more of a challenge from it. The toys that don't engage the children or speak to their imaginations and interests tend to just stay on the shelf," Kramer said.
Bicycles and other sporting equipment help keep children healthy and promote interaction with others. Tickets to sporting events or shows are another way of building relationships.
"Through these events, we build positive memories and experiences in life that we may not have otherwise. Gifts don't always have to be toys. In today's time-constrained world, something as simple as planning a day together with your child can be the best present," Kramer said.
The Nemours Foundation has more about toys.