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Every year, just before the schools break up and when some of us have not even booked our summer holiday, let alone bought the sun lotion and started packing, the press is full of predictions of the Top 10 Toys for Christmas.
As if it is not enough to put up with the ‘Back to School’ signs before the final bell has rung for the school holidays, do we really want to be reminded about Christmas whilst the sun is shining and we are hopefully enjoying some long sunny days and the great outdoors?
Every year we have the same rash of similar Top 10 Toys for Xmas appearing all over the press and some may question how these toys make the Top 10. Is it experts in children’s behavior and creativity who predict what is going to be popular? Or just a cynical exercise by the large retailers and big toy brands to push the toys they have most money invested in? My money is on the second option.
As a small independent retailer, it is depressing to see this annual ritual of expensive toys being paraded in the press as the ‘must have’ toys. As parents, many of us have seen our children convinced by television advertising and peer pressure that their lives will be complete if they only have this latest expensive toy. In my experience, these ‘must have’ and generally expensive toys have usually lost their appeal before the Christmas decorations have been packed back in the loft and the toys have usually hit the back of the cupboard before the batteries have even run out.
So how can we move on from this tired old ritual? As parents we need to remember that children learn from play and not from toys. Parents should be wary of toys that are marketed as educational - many electronic toys have questionable benefits. Children learn most from hands-on creative and imaginative play and interaction with adults and other children. We should be asking whether a toy enourages a child to be creative or to develop their imagination. Does it require the child to do things? And can it be used in more than one way? If the child just presses a button and the toy then sings, dances or talks, then the child is not actively participating in play.
So when you sit down and relax this summer with your newspaper or magazine and see the article about what the Top 10 Toys for Christmas are, please do question whether they are the best toys for your child or those with the most potential for profit.