Playing was good for your child’s health and development. Well, not anymore, and especially not if they are playing with the hundreds of mass-produced, foreign-made toys that can actually be detrimental to a child’s physical well being. Small, removable parts and toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process had lead to some recent high-profile toy recalls—at least two recalls in the last two weeks.
The health and safety guidelines of toy manufacturing aside, the popularity of these foreign-made, cheaply produced types of toys is a larger issue. The fact that these toys are so popular means that there is demand—that these toys are in homes across the globe. And that’s concerning because the more intricate and detailed the toy, the less imagination is required to play with it. All the various small parts and add-ons, extra bits and support toys mean that every possibility and variable for play is thought of. Sure, it’s a great merchandising tactic, but it creates a scenario where children are less mentally active during playtime—and that’s a dangerous habit to fall into during the childhood years where play makes up a large part of a child’s mental development.
There are several grassroots movements supporting a return to simpler, homemade toys that are not only well made and durable, but also local and toxin-free. They promote the type of toys that are meant to support a child’s imagination process, not replace it.
If you are looking for a virtually free, non-toxic, recyclable, toy that is easy to access and provides hours of imagination-filled play that stimulates and promotes cognitive development there is always the old favorites—the cardboard box, the backyard, playground equipment.
The only toys that children need are those that run on brainpower, not battery power.
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Toys that combine technology and tradition are among the top playthings rated for 2006 by the Canadian Toy Testing Council, a non-profit group that, for more than 50 years, has assessed toys on the basis of design, function, durability and play value. The toys are tested by children who play with them for weeks, then help to rate them. The council also offers recommended books for preschoolers to pre-teens.
The best toys blend new technology with the basic characteristics of a great toy, especially for toddlers. Leigh Poirier, the council’s executive director, says the top 10 toys will all keep children entertained for hours.
Toy of the Year
Leapster L-Max Learning Game System by Leap Frog for ages four and up. It’s a hand-held computer system with a touch screen and stylus that runs various learning games. The system can also be hooked to a TV.
Top 10 Toys
- Baby Gymtastics Play Wall by Fisher-Price for ages 6-18 months
- Classic Rock & Bounce Pony by Radio Flyer for ages 9-24 months
- Learning Connections Train by Leap Frog for ages 9 months and up
- Lego Duplo Dragon Tower and Lego Duplo Knights’ Castle by Lego Canada for ages 3 years and up
- Balloon Lagoon by Cranium Inc. for ages 4-7
- Knights Empire Castle, Knights Tournament and Red Dragon by Playmobil Canada Inc. for ages 4 and up
- Zoo Tycoon 2 by Microsoft Canada for ages 8 and up
- Things . . . Humour in a Box by Outset Media for ages 8 and up
- Books in a Cup Lime & Orange by Klutz for ages 8 and up
- Tamagotchi Connection Version 2 by Bandai for ages 8 and up
For a complete listing of the recommended toys, visit the council’s website at www.toy-testing.org
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