Over the last few years we've noticed that the cost of toys across many retail websites, and in shops, see a marked increase as Christmas approaches, and worse than that, stock availability is often poor during the festive season. Sometimes the price of individual items rises, in other instances, special offers that were available in earlier parts of the year disappear in the run-up to Christmas.
Our advice is to do your Christmas shopping early. Start looking for genuine bargains over the next few weeks and months. If you know some of the toys or other products that you want to buy then start monitoring their prices now and see if they come into a sale during the autumn.
Shopping early does mean that you could miss the number one Christmas toy, but if that's the only toy that you buy in the run up to Christmas, you can save yourself, quite literally, hundreds of pounds.
The New Year sales offer a great opportunity to stock up on birthday presents for the coming year. The only downside is that you need space to store everything until birthdays arrive, but if you have a cupboard out of the way, you can make dramatic savings.
We're only just past the summer solstice, marking the middle of the year, but there's no better time to starting your Christmas shopping than right now! Retailers in the high street and online are suffering poor sales - we don't have money to spend and we're not buying. Shops are currently launching into their summer sales, many starting earlier than usual. Now is the perfect time to bag yourself some bargains rather than waiting for Christmas.
Particularly good value at the moment are children's audio and video offerings. Family DVD's and CD's are cheaper at the moment than they will be at Christmas. Amazon and Play are selling many Disney DVD's for between £5 and £8 at the moment. Come Christmas time, they will probably run the same Buy One Get One that they have for the past couple of years, but suddenly all their titles will be retailing at a much higher price - you'll feel like you're getting a bargain but in truth you'll probably end up paying more than you will for the same titles right now.
Many toy retailers are also offering discounted goods at the moment. Grab yourself some bargains, pick up stocking fillers and stock pile gifts for friends' birthday parties now! Every parent takes advantage of discounted toys to give at parties, shop efficiently and you can save yourself a small fortune!
As Christmas approaches, your mind is probably turning to which gifts to buy the children, and by now you're fully aware that there are some great toys out there, but also some terrible ones too! There's nothing worse than having a toy break before you even reach Boxing Day, or finding that a game that looked like it would be brilliant turns out to be useless and the kids just aren't interested!
Luckily we have help at hand. Over the last few years the Internet has been fundamental in shifting shopping patterns from the high street to the home. Even if you haven't braved that revolution, we have also seen a new and welcome trend in online shopping. Many online stores allow buyers to review products that they buy, and nowadays you can quickly find great gift ideas with positive reviews, products that others have lavished on their children and you can now buy in the reasonably safe knowledge that you're buying a good gift!
Some stores allow buyers to review products in their own site directly, others plug in to independent review sites that specialise in collecting reviews rather than selling, arguably making the reviews more trustworthy. Do retain a healthy scepticism for sites that seem only to have one or two really positive reviews for every product as they could have been left by the manufacturer or seller, make sure that there are a good number of reviews that concur.
Reviews will often cover the quality of items, as well as giving a good indication of how suitable the product is to children of different ages. If you are wondering how good a product is and whether to buy it for your children, seek out reviews online and use the experience of others help make up your own mind! If you are later either pleased or disappointed with your purchase, then take the time to leave your own review in order to help future shoppers.
What do you do with all the baby clothes and equipment once your baby grows out of them? So often, babies grow so quickly that their clothes are hardly worn. If you are like most families, the clothes will clog up drawers and wardrobes and get mixed up in clothes that fit and generally get in the way.
What to do? Do you keep them for posterity or sentimental reasons? Do you just throw them away? Do charity shops even want baby clothing?
Store them: If you are intending to have more children, then wash and iron the clothes. Pack them into bags labeled by age range and neatly store them in sealed bags. They store much better when ironed and will look nicer once they come out of storage. Don't worry if you have a different gender the next time round... babies really don't mind what they wear so you may as well get use out of the clothes than worry whether your next baby boy will appreciate flower fairy pyjamas. No one will see!
Friends and Family: There are bound to be friends and family who would be happy to take the clothes off your hands and there is no shame in offering, or accepting second hand clothing. Call it, "previously worn" or "previously loved" rather than old or second hand.
Nearly New Sales: The NCT run local sales all over the country. You have to buy a table to sell from or sometimes the local NCT group will arrange the selling and you simply offer a percentage of your takings. Schools and local groups also arrange sales so keep you eyes open and make use of these sales options. If you are embarrassed about selling, go to a nearby town where no one knows you!
Go to nct.org.uk for more info.
Maternity wards: Try your local hospital or maternity ward and see if they need any baby clothing. Often they are happy to receive baby grows, vests, blankets etc to hand over to new mums who forget or run out of clothing. Or, they may even know of local mums who would appreciate some extra clothes for their baby. The health visitor may also be able to take things off your hands to pass on to needy families.
Charity Shop: Check first before taking things to the charity shop as they may be well stocked for baby clothing so its worth calling first. They are usually quite happy to take nice quality clothes and toys.
Pre-Schools and infant schools - pre-schools may wish to take clothing or toys off your hands. So too might play groups, church creches for Sunday schools etc. They may have fairs and stall that will sell toys or may use them for the children.
Try not to throw them away and if you really think your clothing is mucky then use the huge clothing recycling bins so the fabric can be recycled.
There are lots of essentials that you'll want to have ready to welcome a new baby into the world! If you are expecting a baby, take time in the lead up to research the items that you need and seek out what you want. Don't forget that baby's don't always arrive to plan and may arrive early, so try not to leave everything until the last minute. Most likely you'll receive gifts from friends when your baby is born, but you don't know what you might receive unless friends and family consult you first!
Here is a checklist of some of the things you may want to have ready for your new baby:-
- You probably want a moses basket and blankets for the first bed and later a new cot and bedding, perhaps a cot mobile too
- You may want blackout blinds for the bedroom
- You need to buy baby's bottles, teething rings and a toothbrush
- You need lots of clothes for day and night as well as socks and booties
- You need plenty of nappies and muslins, a changing mat, baby wipes and cotton wool
- You should have some toys and fabric books suitable for baby's
- You may want a hairbrush and nail scissors
- You may want to buy some books to consult to help you with the first months
- You'll find a baby bath easier than a full sized one
- You'll want a pram, car seat and stair gates, perhaps a play den, fire guard and other safety items
- You'll need a high chair for feeding before long
There are lots of things you need during the first few months, but plan ahead and enjoy buying all these things in the run up to the birth of your new baby!
Once your child becomes a toddler a whole new world of toys are suddenly available to them. They can shake and hold, throw and grasp, walk and run... it's a very exciting (and challenging!) time for parents and carers. But, how should a toddler's home or setting be equipped?
Toddlers basically play with whatever is available to them. They need stimulus and an actual 'thing' to play with but at this age it doesn't really matter if it's from an expensive toy shop or your kitchen drawers! They don't know if something has been passed down from an older cousin or if it's brand new.
It is, of course, difficult to put down exactly which toys your toddler needs, because it depends largely on what they like to do and what they already have, but as a rough guide, the types of toys for toddlers should probably fall into the following areas in order to give them a wide ranging and exciting choice.
The Natural World
In order to teach your toddler about nature and the world they need to learn about the natural materials available to us. Whether you live in a house with a garden or a flat without any outside space, there are so many ways to introduce the natural world.
- Go explore the park or woods and find lots of different things made from different materials. Find sticks, stones, leaves, grass.
- Go to the green grocer or market and look at all the different vegetables and fruits on offer. Look at the colours, textures and shapes. Even try one you've not have before and eat it together.
- Talk about your food and where all the things come from.
Fill a basin or an old baby bath and splash around with plain water, water will bubbles, warm water and cold water. Find spoons and sieves and all sorts of things to play with in the water.
- Add a few drops of food colouring to water and play with coloured water. Mix the colours to see what happens.
- Wash a doll or teddy. Splash around with bubbles and soap and have lots of fun. Dry them and at the end wrap them in a towel.
- Get various objects from round the house and see if they sink or float; whether they get wet (like fabric) or go slippery (like plastic). Fill and empty things and see that large beakers have more water in them than small beakers.
Buy some modelling clay or play dough, or make your own (log into ToucanLearn to find recipes) and just have a squidgey time! Make mud pies and mountains and get really messy. (Just make sure you protect your clothes, surfaces and floor!)
- Make shapes and roll the clay into balls. Squash it; pound it; prod it and see what happens.
- Add rice or lentils too and knead it into the clay to make it textured.
- Make pretend clay people, or food or animals. Snip straws and stick them in to make antennae for clay insects or arms for people.
Get a sand pit or go to the beach and build castles, make tunnels or simply add water and change dry sand into sopping wet sand.
- Make some sand mounds and stamp them flat. Count them as you go.
- Build some roads for toy cars or animals and put them in the sand. Drive them around.
- Wrap some stones with silver foil and bury them in the sand. Then try and find the buried treasure!
Try and include some building blocks in your toddler's toy box. They are great for building a make believe train, or a castle.
- Count them; sort them, build with them.
- Make a long line with them, match them and roll them.
Here we've offered just a few basic ideas. Toddlers with even some of the above stimulating equipment will have lots of brilliant experiences. Have fun!
For many months a new born baby will not be interested in playing with their toys - no matter how colourful the toys or encouraging you are, toys are not something they seem really interested in. Until the age of one, most babies will not be able or interested to play alone for very long.
In the early days, you will be far more interesting to your baby. They'll want to follow you round with their eyes, try to mimic what you do, be around you and it's a great time to spend quality time together. Even if baby does begin to enjoy playing with toys, make sure you are always near so you can share with the experience.
Toys present only one small way that children learn about the world and their place within it. The brain develops more in the first two years of life than at any time. Playing and interacting without people is the way babies learn.
How do Babies Learn?
As babies learn to reach and hold things, they become more interested in toys. "What happens if I bang this?" "What a soft feel this teddy has." "I like the sound of that."
Then, they realise they can make things happen themselves. "If I drop this, it makes a noise and someone will come and pick it up.", "If I shout, someone comes.".
Playing, chatting and singing of course is the way children babies learn about speaking and language. From birth they hear your voice, the sounds of music, the noise of cars and talking. All these influences go on to combine to make up their knowledge and understanding of words and language. They pretend to chat on the phone, they sing and babble.
What Toys Could You Buy for a 6 month old?
Toys that are tactile and feel nice are always good. Choose things with lots of bright colours and lots of fun shapes and sizes, things that make a noise and things that are easy to hold.
... and for a 12 month old?
Try things that move or pop open or have doors that shut, this begins to teach cause and effect: if I press this, then that happnes. Physical aparatus to encourage moving is also fun at this age: tunnels and tents.
... and for an 18 month old?
There are thousands of manufactured toys for toddlers, such as building blocks, role play toys (phone, kitchen), puzzles and games, outdoor equipment and so on. But remember you are the best thing for a baby to play with! There are so many things you can so easily do together:
- Play in the baby bath with water and bubbles
- Sit and read books together
- Listen to music
- Have some rough and tumble: swing your baby through the air, have a dance together
- Go to the park: have a go on the slide, swings and climbing frames
- Study leaves and flowers together, feel the texture and look at the shapes and colours
- Look at photographs of people you know
- Look through colourful chldren's catalogues and just chat about what you see
Lots of simple, easy, and non-expensive ways to spend time together. Who needs toys?!
So, Christmas is over - how much packaging have you had to dispose of? Is it just our imagination, or do children's toys seem to come with kilo's of superfluous packaging? In Germany shoppers are entitled to unpackage goods at the checkout and leave the mess for retailers to dispose of. That has encouraged manufacturers of all goods to reduce the amount of packaging they use - supermarkets and retailer's simply won't stock overpackaged goods. We think that's a great idea!
Amazon.com, in the USA, offer over 350 products in 'frustration-free packaging'. These are the same regular products available as normal, but in an easy-to-open box that is easily recycled and doesn't recquire an additional package to be mailed out in. They work with manufacturers directly so that these goods are never over-packaged off the production line. There are none of those annoying clips, wires, screws and other protective gizmo's that make it nigh on impossible to extract your children's new toys from their packaging. It's better for the consumer, better for the environment, and it has to be cheaper for the manufacturer. What a great idea! We think Amazon should extend this to all their markets!