Baby Cheapskate’s Top Toys Week: What Makes a Good Toy?

There are lots of great toys out there and a whole lot that aren’t worth spending money on.

But what makes a good toy, anyway? It’s a question we’ve pondered many times over the years here at BC. If you stop to think about which toys have the best staying power in your household and what they have in common, I’ll bet you’d come up with the same list of traits we have.

We’re not the only ones trying to list the best toys, though. I’m sure you’ve seen the “Toy of the Year” medallions and other awards on toys in the toy aisle. This week we’re going to take a look at toys that show up on award lists put together by Dr. Toy, the Parents’ Choice Foundation and the Toy Industry Association.

As you’ll see in the Top Toys post this week, most of the lists (but not all) use the same criteria:

Toys with Staying Power

  • Are age appropriate. Toys meant for older kids can not only be dangerous for younger ones, but can be confusing or boring since kids haven’t acquired the skill or understanding they need to use them.
  • Can be used in more than one way as kids grow and learn.
  • Let kids be creative. They allow kids to create imagined worlds and scenarios.
  • Encourage extended attention. Kids play with them for more than a minute.
  • Foster  skill development. The best toys help kids build language, motor, social or problem solving skils while they play.
  • Appeal to the senses. They’re fun to look at, touch, and listen to.

On the flip side, toys destined to be forgotten

  • Aren’t interactive. Kids watch them do what they do rather than participating actively.
  • Are one-trick ponies. There’s only one way to play with them.
  • Make noises so annoying that mom or dad makes them disappear forever (*cough* Zhu Zhu Pet *cough*)
  • Require you to keep buying accessories, refills, etc. in order to maintain your child’s interest.

As you read this week’s Top Toys posts, think about how the toys on the lists fit into the criteria above. Train your brain to spot the deals and the duds!

I’d love to hear what you think about the toys on the lists. Be sure to share your opinions in the comments or on Facebook.

Browse other Toys posts at Baby Cheapskate

Browse BC’s Toys that Get Played With lists

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  1. Mother Lydia says:

    As a followup to this, I have found that some of the most attention-grabbing toys for my son have been stuff that had annoying sounds and I wished had been one-trick duds. (particularly I am thinking of the ducks off of this game where the ducks went around and around in a circle and you picked them up and tried to get two that matched… all along with a loud grinding gear sound!)

  2. Jessica says:

    Toys that adjust as a child grows. My favorites were the Baby Einstein Jumper Activity Center. My son grew tall very quickly and it was nice not to have to get rid of it before he was done using it because it didn’t fit.

  3. Lexie says:

    I like toys that can be played with alone, but also encourage my children to interact with each other or with friends. Geotrax has been a toy with incredible staying power around our place and I’m amazed at how when friends from 1- 12 come over they are drawn in to help design and build the track.

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