Toy Selection Help from TNPC
Gift giving to celebrate Christmas and Hanukah is a tradition for millions of families all over the world. In today's market of mass produced toys and educational products for children, choosing a toy that is both fun and safe can present a problem for the gift giver. During 2008 and 2009, dozens of toys including those marketed by trusted manufacturers such as Mattel, Fisher-Price, LeapFrog, and Little Tikes were recalled for issues ranging from choking hazards and dangers to the eye to lead paint standards violations. The list of recalls continues to expand and cause serious concerns for consumers, especially during the gift giving season.

The National Parenting Center (TNPC) was established in 1989 for the purpose of providing advice and resources to those involved with raising and educating children. The group has been reviewing toys, books, furniture, and other child related products and services since 1990. Each year the center issues a list of the products and services that have earned their Seal of Approval. The searchable database of the seal winners is provided on their website and is an invaluable resource for those looking for the perfect gift for that special toddler.

Educational Play

Preschool Learning Alphabet Soup by VTech Electronics is an interactive toy that uses question and answer prompts, LED lighting, and a bouncing Chef "Spoon" figure to help toddlers learn the alphabet and colors. The learning set is available through Amazon and the manufacturer's website – for about $30.00.

Baby Genius® Pet Care Center has not only been awarded the TNPC Seal of Approval but was recently included in the 100 Best Children's Products 2009 list put out by Dr. Toy. The Pet Care Center is a blend of cuddle toy and education center and uses music, story, and activities to keep the toddler engaged, curious, and learning new skills as they work hard to take care of their new puppy. Widely available and very affordable, the new Baby Genius® toy retails for $18.00.

Active Play

Hopscotch by Alex Toys is made from EVA foam pieces that snap together and can be used either outdoors or in. Little ones learn colors and numbers while excising strengthening muscles and developing gross motor skills. Hopscotch has a recommended retail price of $44.99.

Sprig Toys offers a full line of ecologically appropriate toys that encourage physical activity, creative play, and help develop gross motor skills. Discover Rig is a push toy that depends on kids not batteries to light the lights and play the sounds. The durable toy is suitable for both indoor and outdoor play. The manufacturer's suggested price is $59.99, however it can be found for $34.99 from several online retailers.

Books for Ages 3 and Up

The TNPC Seal of Approval is given to books intended to be read aloud and books that have an interactive element. A selection of these award winners includes:

"1-2-3 What Do You See?" by Arlene Alda, published by Tricycle Press ($8.99)
"Alphabet Band" book and CD, published by Publications International, Ltd. ($16.98)
"Christopher Pop-In-Kins" book and toy set by Imaginatives ($29.95)
"What I'll Be", by Nancy Eberhart, Lifevest Publishing ($19.95 hardback, $15.99 paperback)
"What Do You Do With A Kangaroo?" by Scholastic Audio ($9.95, book and CD, $5.99 paperback)
"Little Doorbell Sound Book', Publications International, Ltd. ($8.99)

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