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Up on the housetop, reindeer pause. Out jumps good ole Santa Clause. Down through the chimney with lots of toys, all for the little ones, Christmas joys! Ho ho ho! Who wouldn’t go? Up on the housetop, click, click, click, down through the chimney with good St. Nick!

Gosh I love Christmas! I worked at a Toy Store for five years before I was hired as a legal assistant. Christmas is the best time of year. The Christmas spirit creates an energy and it’s just so much fun.

But, it’s also hectic. Parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents get frazzled and often make strange decisions when buying toys for the kids in their lives. So here are some guidelines for purchasing toys that I picked up while working at the toy store.

1) Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website. It lists recalls, reviews, and dangerous toys. It is a good resource on what NOT to buy.

2) Pay attention to age suggestions. They are there to guide you. You should not buy a toy that says 8+ for a 5-year-old. Types of toys require different skill levels. When buying for toddlers keep in mind that many toys say 3+ because it is much much easier to get them approved for three year olds than for two year olds. It might not necessarily be bad for a two year old. Look for small parts and use your best judgement.

3) Ask for help. I know that in big box stores like ToysRUs it is hard to get knowledgable input from the people who work there, but at smaller stores (like the one I worked at) associates have to know the entire stock. They will often have favorites for each age group. Tell them in advance what price range you’re looking for and they could lead you to the perfect gift.

4) Do your research. If you are not the parent, ask the parent what the kid would like. If you are the parent ask the teacher what your kid plays with at school. It’s seems pretty easy, but many people don’t think of it. Many parents are very concerned about BPA in plastic toys, as well as lead paint. Make sure that you know what kind of toys the parents will accept (you don’t want to spend money on toys that will end up in the trash bin).

5) Safety is important. With all the recent scares this year and last year, toy companies have been testing their little hearts out. You may be concerned with newly banned substances still on the shelves in big boxes, but most small businesses will not have that problem. Companies that have had recalls in the past have cleaned up their acts. If you’re not sure about a product, ask someone.

Most of all, remember this, shopping for toys is supposed to be fun!

Okay, that’s all I can think of for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll update the post. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to comment!

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