Ignore top 10 Christmas toy lists, says play expert

Pester power is indeed a powerful thing but play expert Dr Amanda Gummer is encouraging parents not to give in to the temptation to try and "provide it all" for their kids this Christmas.

The festive season can put huge pressure on parents but Dr Gummer, a child psychologist, is encouraging them not to fall into the trap of spending lots of money on toys that are expensive and will only over stimulate their children.

She has set up a new website - www.goodtoyguide.com - to help parents focus on what really matters when buying toys.

In her view, that means the simple pleasures that will entertain long after Christmas Day is over.

“Don’t give in to pressure to buy the most expensive, latest toys on the market. Often toys that children will play with over and over again don’t make it into the top ten lists,” she says.

The Good Toy Guide reviews of toys that have been tested in play clubs and helpful explanations about the different skills they can help children to develop.

Dr Gummer's advice to parents is to ignore the price tag and concentrate instead on the presents that will allow them to spend more quality time with their children.

And for those on an extra tight budget this year, she says there are lots of things parents can do to make a great Christmas without breaking the bank, and that is, creating memories that will be remembered for years to come.

Simple things like snuggling with the kids to watch a movie, reading a Christmas book or seeing the Christmas lights together can make Christmas an exciting and fulfilling experience for kids.

She has some simple advice for parents buying gifts this year:

• Do your research and make sure that the toys you do buy are going to keep the kids entertained past Boxing Day.
• Don’t base your judgment of what to buy your children on the latest list of top sellers – these lists don’t tell you whether a toy is any good, they just tell you what is selling.
• If you buy the latest licensed product or screen based or digital toy, be prepared for your children to spend the rest of Christmas day glued to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a bad idea. Many high tech toys are developmentally beneficial and licensed toys are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
• A careful selection of other toys and games can help balance out any single toy and provide the child with a range of play choices that will suit different situations and promote different skills.
• Active toys have been shown to increase the amount of time children spend playing actively and creative play helps build confidence and self-expression. Concentration and perseverance are important skills and many quieter toys, e.g. puzzles and construction projects help children develop these.

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