Local News

Shopping Outside the Box for Holiday Toys

Posted December 5, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— When you are dealing with a gift list for kids, toy stores are not the only places you can go for successful shopping. Think hardware.

Instead of a toy store, many child psychologists say the corner hardware store has tons of gifts for your child on every aisle.

It gives the youngster a chance to use imagination to solve problems, not just the problem that a particular electronic toy may pose.

Take a pair of simple garden gloves. With a bit of imagination, they can be transformed into the perfect accessory for playing train engineer.

And what about a birdhouse instead of a doll house?

"If he or she has expressed any interest in nature, it might be a really interesting thing," says child psychologist Joe Sparling.

And then there are funnels. Combine them with some plastic tubing, and you have the makings of a great water toy.

Whether it be a magnifying glass for looking at tiny insects or a simple storage box that a child can use to hide treasures, the hardware store can be the source of great gifts.

Many of these so-called "open-ended" toys are things your child will not outgrow.

"A lot of these toys that you find in hardware stores can also be given with an IOU from parents promising to participate in a future activity with their kids," Sparling said.

Take a hammer. What a treat for a child to know that a parent or grandparent will spend a weekend helping to build something in the workshop.

And then there is paint.

"That would be a great experience, and the child would learn how to use the brushes and how to clean it up," Sparling says.

The next time you head to any store, keep in mind that things children play with are not always labeled as toys, and many of the non-traditional items require adult supervision.

Psychologists say that is a good thing, because it means parents and children can spend more time together.