Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What to get a 3-year-old with a young sibling

Kids under 5 years old generally don't understand gift cards, so parents are left generally in the middle of the Christmas rush trying to buy them something they would like with the card. This is reasonable, and allows the parent, who knows what toys the child has already and what will/will not appeal t them, to pick out something they will enjoy.

I found myself at Target yesterday with two of these cards buying gifts for the kids (so no, I hadn't planned to be one of those last-minute shoppers), and was amazed to realize that PMs in the toy industry all over have missed a key use case. That is, most households with at least two children eventually reach a point that they have someone over 3 years old with younger siblings. The 3-year-old is not likely to put a toy in their mouth and try to swallow it. The younger sibling, who wants to imitate the 3-year-old, will try to swallow it.

A toy can be more suitable for a 3-year-old in its sophistication, yet still not have small pieces that a younger sibling can swallow. That should be obvious for most parents, but is apparently a new concept to the toy designers. Most toys I found that were for ages 3-6 or 2-4 contained small pieces that my 9-month-old would be happy to swallow, and the toys made with few swallowable parts don't challenge my 3-year-old physically or intellectually.

Though she's not likely to swallow it, a child under 8 years of age is likely to lose the pieces, making for frustrated parents and minor foot injuries and toy casualties from things that are left out overnight.

The Leapfrog Tag Junior fits the bill nicely, giving my daughter something that she will learn from and yet doesn't appear to contain any small pieces.

Cash register toys also seem to fit the bill, except where they have a pull-out tray with paper money (still haven't found all of it from her birthday).

Dolls are also good; my daughter has one she enjoys feeding, tickling, burping...

Tickle Me Elmo XL is easy for a 2-year-old to operate. He's fun to watch, but have little value for imaginary play or education. He's furry but more of a robot than a stuffed animal. Doesn't snuggle well, and though he is a feat of engineering for which I applaud the designer (he falls to the ground, pounds with his fist as he laughs, rolls on his back, kicks his legs, and almost always returns to a standing position when done), he hasn't gotten much use since last Christmas. Maybe this year's model is better?