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Safe Toys and Gift Month: KISSAA

That's right, Keep it Simple and Age Appropriate. Every year, toy manufacturers clamor louder for our dollars, and direct that clamoring to younger and younger kids. World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) lists the 10 Worst Toys for the 23rd year. The site provides pictures of unbelievably-bad-ideas-that-actually-made-it-to-production like Fear Factor Candy Challenge and Zip-Ity Do Dolly, both of which pose serious choking hazards to small children. Edward M. Swartz, an attorney and author of Toys That Kill (not to be confused with the eponymous band), is the founder of this watchdog organization. The W.A.T.C.H team has developed an educational program for kids about toy safety.

It doesn't take much to entertain young children. They are as delighted to bang together the pots, pans and lids you drag out of mysterious kitchen cabinets, as they are to play with fancy toys that make noise for them. When my daughter was younger, she attended Waldorf school for a few years. We never quite fit in their gentle, pastel world, but I do have to give them props for the handcrafted toys and ideas about child's play. Natural Play offers some gorgeous handcrafted toys, segregated into categories by age. They may be more expensive than the better known plastic name brands, but the reality is, kids do better with fewer toys. Too many choices are overwhelming, and a small selection of well made toys that look, taste, feel and smell good is better than a room full of breakable plastic parts that get lost. At age 2, my daughter loved pulling around her wooden helicopter. Hand dyed silk scarves can be draped around rooms, and bodies to create a rich and beautiful fantasy world to retreat into. The rich colors of art pastels and water colors on heavy white paper inspire budding artists to create masterpieces. Drums and whistles and musical rattles bring out the natural percussionist in the family and can relieve tensions and calm the soul.

Humans learn through play. Play helps develop muscles, coordination and problem solving skills. Children use imaginative play to process the bewildering environment they find themselves living in. Sarah N. Paweni and David Rubovits provide excellent advice to guide selection of toys for children with disabilities. Enabling Devices offers toys for special needs children. The best toys engage children on every level and are a cherished part of their lives for years. The safest gifts we give our children are the ones that cost nothing - our time, encouraging words, and always letting them know how deeply cherished they are.

Image courtesy of JG Clarke .
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