First Coast toy shop owner provides guidance on top toys of 2017

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Every child wants toys to play with, and that is a good thing. Toys help children develop lifelong skills. They promote imagination and discovery, problem-solving skills, fine motor skills, self-discovery, physical skills, social skills and so much more.

Yet as today’s toy market has exploded with so many great toys, the selection out there has become overwhelming. So, to help with that, I will provide you with examples of award-winning and top toys of 2017 in all different categories and ages.

If we start with the little ones 6 months and under, touch and feel is so important. The crinkle of the pages in the Fluffy Tails book by Jellycat, the Yoee Baby soother (new to the market this past year), the NogginStik® by SmartNoggin and Tobbles Neo by Fat Brain are all great, award-winning products.

As the child develops through ages 1-3, there are wonderful products like Hape’s Pound and Tap Bench, Counting Cookies by Learning Resources and Tobbly Wobbly featuring Squigs, DripDrip and Waddle Bobbers by Fat Brain that help develop imagination and creativity, fine motor skills, visual thinking and problem-solving skills. Even at 18 months, a child can start to learn STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills with Start-Up Circuits by Mindware!

Once a child reaches the age of 3, the market really opens up! You have choices consisting of games, construction, pretend play…It’s endless.  Gears! Gears! Gears! ® Robot Factory by Learning Resources, Quadrilla Marble Run by Hape and Design, Drill by Educational Insights and GeoSafari’s Jr. Talking Microscope are just a few of the great choices.

Let’s not forget a little “pretend play.” When children dress up and pretend to be a princess or a dinosaur (Great Pretenders) or play with their pretend kitchen, they are developing social, imagination and creativity skills. 

As our children grow, we can teach them programming and logic skills as early as age 4 and 5 with games such as Robot Turtles and Balance Beans by Think Fun!

When children reach age 8 and up, they use a computer more and more in school.  Get the kids involved with science, arts and crafts and programming with Lego Make Your Own Movie by Klutz. Or enable them to build and program their own vehicles with meeperBOT 2.0. If they like an experiment, the Make Your Own Soap science kit by Klutz or the Bath Bomb Lab by Mindware should do the trick. They can also build all types of different robots with the Glow In The Dark Lab by SmartLab.  If they like astrology, try a National Geographic telescope that has an attachment for your phone so you and others can all see the moon and stars together!

Also remember to get outside and have fun, whether you’re in the yard or at the beach!  Spikeball and Bellz Bucket (next generation corn hole) are great family games. Jump on a Grom or Flight pogo stick by NSG, which are some of the best on the market. If your family likes “American Ninja Warrior,” then you’ll want to try Slacker’s Ninja Line or its slack and ziplines!  They’re well-made for years and years of use.      

There are so many great products on the market that aren’t driven by television ads and are made to last! Reach out to your local specialty toy store; I’m sure the business would love to help!

Jennifer Ellen-Ellis is the Owner and CEO of Olde Town Toys, LLC in St. Augustine.

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