lanning to buy a toy for the
child of a friend or relative?
Don't worry too much about
spending a lot of money and
getting something fancy, says
Susan Bredekamp of the National
Association for the Education of
Young Children. Many favorite acti-
vities of children involve inexpen-
sive articles, such as packets of
colored construction paper, a box of
chalk, plastic stacking cups, and
harmonicas, she says.
"There is a reason the same toys
are played with generation after
generation — wooden blocks, cray-
ons, puzzles, trucks, dolls and so
forth," says Bredekamp. "It's
because they meet the needs that
young children have always had and
will always have."
Jack Lochhead, director of the
University of Massachusetts at
Amherst's Center for Cognitive
Research Processes, agrees. He says
that some of the worst toys for
children are the expensive gimmicky
spectator type, such as talking dolls
and bears. Such toys, which do
things as the child watches pas-
sively, squelch the child's imagina-
tion and limit play.
The best toys, he says, are low
cost, low tech toys that offer imag-
inative play — unpainted wooden
blocks that help teach geometric
patterns and mathematical con-
cepts, and the educational toys
often found in schools.
Perhaps in recognition of this
theory, some toy companies are
manufacturing simpler toys these
days. Creative Playthings, for exam-
ple, has reintroduced some of its
more popular outdoor wooden play-
grounds and accessories.
But don't expect to see a disap-
pearance of high-tech toys. Accord-
ing to Douglas Thomson of the Thy
Manufacturers of America, the corn-
ing year will see a continuing
resurgence of popularity in video
games, especially among young
boys. Led by nintendo products, this
area has had the biggest effect in
sales; 1987's home video game sales
were estimated at more than $1
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