If you’re like me you find children to be some of the most difficult people to shop for. Maybe a $100 gift you were so sure would please is passed over for a piece of string and the child’s imagination. Are you going to be the cool aunt that gives great toys or the one who hands out clothing to a nine-year-old boy? Should the gift be educational or fun? Can they even be both?
To help you get the creativity flowing, we asked local gift store-owner and children’s toy expert Brian Mack of Potomac’s Toy Castle for some tips on gifting the perfect child’s toy.
Patch: When shopping for children's toys what are some things customers should look for/keep in mind?
Brian Mack: Keep in mind that each child is different, the age on the box is intended as a guide except for safety concerns. Also remember that most toys are not intended to be opened and handed to a child, parents need to interact with the toy, showing children how it works and what fun and possibilities exist. Nothing is most disappointing than a child with a bunch of parts… and no one to guide them.
Patch: What are some popular types of toys this season? How can shoppers make sure they're buying something original and fun for children?
Brian: There are not any new directions for toys this year, but lots of great extensions to existing toys abound. Playmobil continues to introduce new items; my grandson loves to imagine worlds using his figures. Magnetic building toys are back, like Magnatiles and Magformers, both offer hours of fun and educational construction.
Mind teasing puzzles are big this year, including Pajaggle, a puzzle and game combo. The only way to make sure you buy something perfect is to ask questions, consider your child and plan to spend some time getting your child started with your purchase.
Visit the Bethesda Patch Holiday Survival Guide for more life-saving holiday ideas.
Patch: What are some good ideas for educational and fun gifts?
Brian: Good ideas are --
- Boogie Board: Sketch, write, draw... without paper! An LCD writing tablet allows you to write or draw on screen, press a button and it magically erases! Great gift for kids and adults, available in variety of colors.
- No Button: Perfect gift for adults on your list, press the button and it says "NO" in a variety of ways.
- Fast Track: Tabletop hockey-type game, fast action for "kids" of all ages. Quick pace, no long instructions, open and play!
- Magnatiles: 3-D magnetic building toy -- "Fun Tested, kid approved.” Most looked for item in [our store] Children use in preschools, and love them
- Snap Circuits: Fun electronic building kit, NO wires or screws. Learn how circuits work, make bells sound and lights come on... all educational but fun!
Patch: What are you gifting this season?
Brian: I have four Boogie Boards for nieces and a Magnatiles for my grandson picked out; possibly a “No Button” for my brother. We gave Fast Track last year to several kids on our list.