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Dr. Toy Recommends The Best Toys For Christmas

by Darcy Spears, Channel 3, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, NV

Original story Here

December 4, 2003

20 shopping days left until Christmas, and only two weeks before Hanukkah begins. That means parents across the valley will be in search of the right toy. To help you out, we sent News 3 Investigator Darcy Spears on a fun mission. She calls herself Dr. Toy, a Ph.D. expert on child's play and the developmental value of toys. She says the right toy is a smart toy because children learn best through play. Take a look at what she deems the top toys for 2003.

Children at play are children learning, growing and developing the skills they need to function in the world. For that reason, toys are our children's first teachers. Dr. Stevanne Auerbach, a child development expert known as Dr. Toy, produces an annual holiday guide to help parents sort through the swarm of toys each year, and help them make safe and sane choices. "What I look for are toys that have an educational value, that are going to teach the child a skill, they're going to learn something about eye hand coordination. They're going to learn how to figure things out in a game, learn how to take turns, cooperation, they're going to learn dexterity when they play activities that are really important for them to learn through play."

She emphasizes variety, but for young children, the focus is on first and foremost, safety. "Small pieces, anything that can break, anything with a long tie, sounds that are too loud ... you really have to be careful for children under the age of 3." But parents with babies can take heart, she says, because they really don't need much. "I believe that the parent is the child's first big toy." Beyond that, "You want things like rattles to give them a little distraction when they're getting their diapers changed, and you also need things when you go into the car or you're traveling, they need something that kind of can give them retention. When they're getting a bath, a little rubber ducky is fun, but the child doesn't need a whole lot the first few months."

As they grow, look for age appropriate toys. The age range should be prominently displayed on the box, but Dr. Toy says your observations are even more important. "What are they ready for? What's their next challenge? If you observe your child playing and they're really ready for an extension, for example children like to play store, so you get a cash register." She recommends this talking one, by Learning Resources. "That's gonna help them with math, playing games, using their communication."

She also warns against overloading children with too much. Focus on toys that will challenge, and that will last, like this construction oriented toy by Mega-Blox. "What I like about it is you get to build 10 different products in this case." Kids should be exposed to reality based toys. "They've got scanners and little shopping carts." And fantasy as well, allowing them to experience both worlds. Of course, Dr. Toy says we should never forget the classics, like Erector sets. "And you have Lincoln Logs, which were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright's son."

Board games like I-Spy make Dr. Toy's list this year. "And it's not about competition, but it's having fun together. It develops a child's ability to learn how to win and lose, how to take turns, and these are the things you have to learn at home before you get to school." And the life lessons that come from baby dolls are always a must. "Baby dolls are very important for children to play with. They develop nurturing skills, they develop communication and they're learning some early parenting. And it's particularly good when you have a younger brother or sister coming along."

Dr. Toy's annual report includes company customer service numbers, web site URL, age range, price and a full description, including color photos, of each product.

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