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Batteries not included

19 December 2007

For immediate release

Batteries not included

Shoppers buying children’s toys this Christmas may be misled by all of the ‘bells and whistles’, says hospital play specialist and Growing Tiny Minds director, Nicky Woollaston.

Increasingly, toy manufactures are loading their products with more and more features, but Mrs Woollaston says more is definitely not always better.

In fact, the more a toy does, often the less it serves as a developmental aide. It may be over-stimulating or the ‘feature’ becomes the focus and the toy loses its appeal when this no longer works.

“A lot of toys have many special features, or are over- loaded with things that individually are developmentally correct, but combined are too much. There is often little to encourage children to actively engage with the toy, or to spark their imaginations.”

Mrs Woollaston says that children can become easily bored or over-stimulated by toys that are not age and stage appropriate. Either way, it can make Christmas a fraught time for children and gift givers alike.

“You are your child’s most valued toy and playmate, but if you are looking for toys from the market place the best toys are simple, open ended and adaptable. Great toys nurture positive relationships and learning through play.”

Ideally, Mrs Woollaston recommends toys that can be adapted to support the skills and milestones of the next developmental stage.

“It makes good sense to extend the practical life of your children’s toys. Good quality toys are not always inexpensive, but there’s really no need to buy loads of toys if you buy with an eye for adaptability and future use.”

Retailers often display toys by gender or age bracket. Some particularly good toys, like blocks, cross all toddler and pre-school age brackets.

Blocks may not seem that exciting, but what children can do with them is.

A one year old may spend ages focusing on stacking one or two blocks on top of one another to build a small tower. A three year old can use the same blocks to build a really tall tower, group them in like colours or shapes, or build a house or paddock for pretend play.

Mrs Woollaston feels that often the fewer the ‘features’ the more children have the opportunity to engage with the toy as a tool for mastering their developing skills. Children themselves adapt the way that they use toys to be developmentally appropriate, supporting the skills that they are in the process of mastering.

There are lots of wonderful toys, but you need to be selective – and they are not always easy to find. Mrs Woollaston has researched and sourced many toys for babies, toddlers and preschoolers for her online shop.

“I have individually assessed and selected each of the toys. I believe that play is so important, both as a means of learning and fostering positive relationships.”

Each toy from Growing Tiny Minds is supported by a selection of ideas and activities, specific to the toy and age group; the next age group is included as well to encourage parents to think outside of the box, adapt and extend the life of the toy.

“The key thing is to get alongside children - investing a little time, energy and a sense of fun will support your bright wee sparks to become confident and competent children. Simple toys, positive interactions - it’s wonderful to know that something that feels so good is so right. Play is fun and very valuable.”

The bells and whistles are optional.


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