Tips for choosing toys for holiday giving

By Donna Erickson

Katie Brenke assists Kelly Davis in choosing an entertaining improv game for her 6-year-old niece at a Minneapolis toy store.


A doll? A puzzle? A yo-yo? What was your all-time favorite childhood toy, and what made it so special? Now in the season of giving as we play Santa’s elves, those personal memories come into focus in considering what toys we can offer children that are fun, creative and lasting.

Here are some tips to guide you as you search for an endearing and enduring toy for the children on your holiday gift list:

— Often, “bargain toys” are no bargain at all, particularly if they break after only one or two uses. Look for safe, well-constructed toys like wooden cars or trains, toy instruments, plush animals and puppets. These open-ended toys let children play with them in new and different ways as they grow.

— Avoid purchasing toys that will be played with once and be tossed aside. To get the most out of your toy-buying dollars, look for toys that can entertain in a variety of ways. Construction toys of any kind are a good example, such as wooden building blocks, snap-together Legos or Duplo blocks. Don’t overlook the classics that have been updated for a new generation, like Erector Sets and Tinkertoys. All of these help your children practice skills like sorting, stacking, balancing and counting. (Labels on toys will help you determine if it is age appropriate.)

— Find value in toys that help children use their imagination and creativity. “Jewelry and craft sets let kids develop fine motor skills while they make one-of-a-kind creations for relatives to display and wear,” says Katie Brenke, assistant manager at a Minneapolis toy store. “For a unique gift kit, assemble a tote full of art supplies, like paints, brushes, paper, glue and clay,” she adds.

— Take a look at games, too, as you peruse the shelves. A classic like Candyland, created in the late 1940s, helps preschoolers learn counting and colors. Another family favorite, Monopoly, teaches kids and adults about real estate and the value of money. Games like backgammon, checkers, chess and cribbage are favorites for all generations. Check out other new board games, too, that bring kids and adults together during the holidays and year-around. You may discover that games provide the best gift of all: memorable time spent together with family and friends.


Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”


© 2019 Donna Erickson

Distributed by King Features Synd.