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Like the Polly Pocket roller coaster that was quickly rendered useless when a couple of the key pieces disappeared. Or the make-your-own crayon kit that, after much begging and pleading, was finally purchased and used exactly once. Or the Dippin' Dot maker that didn't even come close to replicating the tasty treat we always buy at baseball games, but did clutter up the kitchen. When the kids aren't looking? Hello, garbage can.
We know, we know. These are first world problems. But, in the days after Christmas, we're pretty sure we aren't the only parents with toy-buying regret.
So, what lessons can we learn to avoid making the same shopping mistakes next year? Here are five tips to consider:
1. Make sure you have room. Consumer Reports advises storing toys in sight and reach of your kids: Think baskets, bins or the like. When a toy is too big to stay out in plain sight, kids, with their short attention spans, are likely to forget about it and it'll just gather dust.
2. Small is just fine. There's no need to go for the biggest Lego set or Mega Blok kit you can find. "Especially with building sets, if you have a beginning builder -- start small," says Stephanie Oppenheim, co-founder of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. "The idea is for them to enjoy the project, not watch an adult do it."
3. Sometimes quality really does count. If it looks super-cheap, it probably is super-cheap. Just because your kid has seen it advertised on TV for the last 12 weeks doesn't mean she has to have it. She'll probably forget about it soon, anyway, and you won't have to wipe tears away when it breaks on the first use.
4. Opt for toys that will be "loved and lasting." Kim Rowe of the website Little Stories advises parents to look for toys that will hold a kid's interest for a long time. "Push-button, light-up toys tend to engage your child excitedly at first and then get tossed aside after your child has figured them out," she says. "I call them 'shiny and passing toys.' They tend to be plastic, do too much on their own and lose their wow factor quickly. Instead, opt for those toys that don't do very much but will be loved and lasting." She suggests toys like a classic train set, a dollhouse that will last through the years or other things that encourage imagination.
5. Invest in "good" toys. According to the nonprofit Parents Choice Foundation, a good toy is one that can be played with in many ways, challenges your child to do, think or feel, contributes to the development of her physical, mental, social and emotional skills, is attractive and well made, and, of course, is safe.