Magazine article USA TODAY

Holiday Gifts Should Stimulate Imagination

Magazine article USA TODAY

Holiday Gifts Should Stimulate Imagination

Article excerpt

Beanie Babies and virtual pets might get all the advertising hype, but sometimes it is the building blocks and tea sets that kids end up playing with the most. Advertising makes toys so appealing to children that they want them for Christmas, notes Deborah Cassidy, associate professor of human development and family studies, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. However, the glitzy commercials often disguise the fact that many of them have only one dimension. "When children see something glamorously presented, it looks very appealing. But after a few times, those toys can get boring. Ultimately, they might not be used as much."

Sharon Mims, coordinator of the child care education program at the university, maintains that one-dimensional toys such as battery-operated vehicles leave little room for youngsters to use their imaginations. She has seen this happen. In seeking to be creative, children put down the shiny toy and end up playing with the cardboard box it was packaged in. They are having fun, but the parents who spent money on the toy are not.

Mims says the key for parents shopping for Christmas toys is to strike a balance between those popular items kids crave and some other, more open-ended presents that may end up becoming the most used. It's not always an easy task because children typically have their hearts set on getting a particular item for Christmas.

Youngsters can expand the capability of one-dimensional toys by combining them with other items, such as building blocks or Play Doh. …

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