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Expert Insights with Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

January 14, 2013

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

Several years ago I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Toy and listen in on one of her educational workshops for nannies on all things play. As a play expert and the leading authority on toys, I knew she would have some great insight into the best toys of 2012, the impact of electronic toys, and the importance of play. Here’s some of what she had to share:

eNannySource: What were the top toys for 2012?

Dr. Toy: There are many products offered by many companies, and many top toys every year plus many top classic ones that never go out of style.  It’s always important to know the children’s interests and abilities and locate toys that best fit their age and abilities. There are also many top toy lists to select from, so going to websites in advance helps to find a range of possible products.

Go on a visit to the toy store and listen to what the child likes and use that experience to create a personalized “Wish List.” Children play year round, so toys that are popular in December can and also should be enjoyed later in the year.

Dr. Toy makes toy selections based on types of products including low to high tech, wide age range and price range, and the types of products. You can find the Best Ten Toys and 9 other categories on Dr. Toy’s Guide. We also have created an App, Dr. Toy’s Best Toys Gift Guide

Some popular toys include Lego, Leap Pad 2, Dolls, Hot Wheels, Air Hogs, Pirates (Fisher Price), Easy Bake Oven and Wii. Please don’t forget books, building toys, creative projects, art supplies and music equipment, games, puzzles, and a variety of fun items for outdoor activities.

eNannySource: How have electronic devices changed the landscape of children’s play?

Dr. Toy: Electronics have brought many changes to the land of toys, ranging from interactive toys to computers, games on line connected to plush and toys, and products that resemble adult products like Leap Pad 2 and other related high tech devices. There are more electronics related to toys than ever before, but that does not necessarily make for better play. Children also need to balance activities and experience real play and not overdose on technology. 

eNannySource: What are your thoughts on limiting screen time?

Dr. Toy: When children play with anything that is electronic, including games and TV, the time should be limited so they also play with real toys that more directly and at their own pace capture their imagination, requires their interaction and creativity, and helps them to learn and be involved making and doing…and engaged in real activity. It’s really the difference between buying cookies already made and actually preparing and baking them. 

eNannySource: What are your favorite toys of all time? For toddlers?

Dr. Toy: As a guide to basics, my book Smart Play/Smart Toys covers play and playthings from baby to older children. In the chapter on Toddlers we indicate a variety of great toys that are perfect for this age, including art supplies (Colorforms©, finger paints and Play-Doh©), balls of different sizes, blocks, books, dolls, musical instruments, pail and shovel, pounding sets, puppets, puzzles, ring stacks, shape sorting, stuffed plush animals, and transportation vehicles.

eNannySource: For preschoolers?

Dr. Toy: As children grow they continue to like to use art supplies, books, building toys, dolls, musical instruments, and vehicles. Preschoolers will also enjoy the fun of learning to ride a tricycle and creating a garden.

eNannySource: What lessons do non-electronic toys teach that electronic ones can’t replicate?

Dr. Toy: Children are developing their brain power and require real experiences that prepare them and give them opportunities to gain skills, including artistic and creative expression, communication, dramatic acting, role playing, exploration, digging in sand and soil, and pouring and playing with water. They enjoy experimenting and exploring their environment, building up and knocking down blocks, construction toys, talking with puppets, and plush toys. They need to make sounds and figure things out and not have devices that are programmed to take over and bypass all of the values that play provides.  

eNannySource: What’s your advice to today’s parents on the importance of play?

Dr. Toy: Please do not reduce play time for the child, as they benefit from and need a great variety of experiences to fully develop. Play is natural and essential and the more the child plays the more confident and curious they become. Play enriches both sides of the brain and when they play they are gaining optimal mental development. They need to make sounds, explore, and discover so they gain firsthand experience and directly know how to use their full range of abilitiesTake the time to play with the child and enjoy the interaction and the benefits and the amazing opportunity for both adult and child.

eNannySource: Can you share your best tips for play?

Dr. Toy: Take time to select the most suitable products that offer the best quality, safety and design. Select what is best for the child and what they will most benefit from. Then, take the time to play, keep playthings easily accessible, and store anything they are not playing with. Recycle these items in a few months and they will be fresh and enjoyed again.

Keep an eye on the toys so that anything broken is discarded and those not being used are donated to charity.

Most of all have fun and know how important the experiences children have are when they are playing. 

Dr. Toy, Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, is a leading authority on play, toys, and children’s products. With 30 years of direct experience, Dr. Auerbach includes educationally oriented, developmental, and skill building products from the best large and small companies in her four annual award programs. Dr. Toy is the author of Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Smart Toys How to Raise a Child with a High PQ – Play Quotient which helps parents select the best toys and games for developing “Play Quotient” (PQ) and expanding child’s play.  Dr. Auerbach passed away in 2022. You can read a tribute obituary here.


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