The 3 biggest mistakes to avoid when you're buying toys

by Stephanie Oppenheim /  / Updated 

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It’s getting to be the time of year when kids make their lists of toys they’d like for the holidays. Eager grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles also want to know what to buy the children in their lives. Here are three common mistakes to avoid when choosing toys:

1. Don’t buy toys to grow into.

Play is how kids learn about themselves and build self-esteem. So buying a toy that’s beyond their years will only frustrate them. While it’s tempting to buy the biggest construction set, it’s a much better idea to start with a smaller, more manageable set that they can do more successfully. If you’ve ever found yourself doing all the building, you know what we’re talking about. 

The idea is to bring home age-appropriate toys and games that will build your child’s sense of confidence as an active learner. The same goes for games that are too lengthy, or crafts that are too complicated. Also, no matter how smart your 2-year-old may be, it’s really important to heed warnings that a toy is “not intended for a child under 3.” That usually means there are small parts that could present a choking hazard.

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Follow these tips to ensure smiles during the holidays and beyond.Syda Productions / Today

2. Don't ignore the child’s interests.

Know your child: Some kids like to pretend with their whole bodies, so costumes would be a great hit. Other kids like to play with miniature play settings, like garages or dollhouses. If your child hates board games, try one of the active games on our list this year. The idea is play to their strengths and interests. It’s also important to share the list with relatives who may not live nearby. No one wants to give a “dud” of present.

3. Don’t bring home the same type of toy.

While "Frozen" may be big this year, bringing home everything related to any one movie or theme will become boring pretty quickly. The idea is to bring home a variety of playthings that will last long after the holidays are over. Take a look at your list — does it have construction toys, props for pretend, art supplies, sporting equipment and other fun playthings?

For a complete list of age-appropriate toys, visit

Stephanie Oppenheim is the co-founder of Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, an independent consumer organization that reviews children's media. She frequently appears on TODAY to talk about the newest and best toys.

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