Oh, the toy store, such a love/hate relationship…..
One reason I came up with this process was TOO MANY out of control shopping experiences. You know the type, when an over excited child enters a glorious land of endless toys without a single idea what they really want. This usually results in lots of running, pulling at toys and a parent finally just buying whatever toy the child is drooling over at the second the parent has had enough of the wonderful shopping experience. More often than not, the purchased toy gets one or two playtimes and it’s on to something else and there goes $xx money right into the toy box black hole.
To combat this and to make shopping less overwhelming for my special needs child, I have developed a really great method with Blondie to choose any type of toy she is allowed to buy. For example, using our Color Based Behavior Chart, she is rewarded with a toy at month’s end if she has a majority of green/good days. I also use variations of this for birthdays and Christmas which involve longer time periods in addition to multiple toys.
Steps to Choosing the Perfect Toy:
1) Begin searching on the first day of the month: For our behavior system, the first day of the month works best. The month’s reward selection is made early to provide a reminder of what she has to look forward to if she maintains a majority of good days.
2) Discuss what toy they might be interested and why: Talking about her interests, commercials she has seen, a toy we looked at previously or even upgrades on current toys starts the selection process. This helps to generate ideas and the goal is to have a long list of toys to research
3) Help them browse toy websites and catalogs: This is the big step that really narrows down the long list. Our favorite websites are ToysRUs, Amazon, Melissa & Doug and Wal-Mart. We also browse any catalogs or ads that are around our house. An amazing number of toys we listed are quickly crossed out just by letting her look at the pictures and reading the descriptions to her. Of course, by looking at the websites she always finds additional toys she likes. The goal is to get 5-10 core toys to move on with.
4) Watch any videos on toy that are available: A great tool available on some websites is the availability of product demo videos. This lets us see the toy in action and not just a commercial. These are usually stripped down with just the toy and a user plus a discussion of features and important information. Great for a child to actually see what the toy does and how it works. It shows the actual size compared to a person as opposed to how HUGE some toys look on TV. This is usually the deciding factor for Blondie. Most websites also include commercials, various angles of pictures and user reviews. The goal is to decide on the 2 best options.
5) Review and reconsider toys for 2-3 days: Review the 2 best options. I talk to Blondie about the pros and cons. I ask her questions and try to find out what she really thinks about the toys. I let her browse the toy websites and play the demos several times as well. The goal is to pick her favorite toy.
6) Print picture of selected toy: After a selection is made, I print several color pictures of the toy. I usually print it from several views if they are available. The goal here is to provide a visual reference for Blondie.
7) Place pictures of toy in key places: I place pictures in various points of the house. I hang one beside of the wall calendar, one in her room and one at the computer desk. She also keeps one that ends up in her book bag, under her pillow or wherever she takes it. This gives Blondie a reminder of the toy, allows her to focus on that reward and provides an incentive to have both good days and provides a focal point to assist calming down when she has a meltdown.
8. Go shopping: Armed with a selection, a picture and an excited child it is time to go shopping. These trips are planned and scheduled. After a month of anticipation, Blondie is ready to get that toy. She takes her printed picture, a printout of the description and an envelope containing the reward money to the toy store. The trip is usually 99% drama free. We shop like a scavenger hunt and search for the toy. I keep the trip simple. We find the toy and checkout without any distractions. Because we planned so much it usually goes perfectly.
This process helps me to understand what toys Blondie is really interested in and not just one that caught her eye in a commercial. I found that after going through all of these steps the toy has a much better chance of a being played with for a long time than a spontaneous pick at the store.
About Today’s Guest Post Author, Raven Green
Raven W. Green. She is an Army wife of 10 years, mother of 2 little miracle girls, special needs advocate, avid book reader, social media and tech geek and aspiring author. Raven has an A.A. from Gaston College, a B.A. from Belmont Abbey College, is a Founder/Group Leader of MOSNAB: Moms of Special Needs Army Brats, is Contributing Blogger/Group Leader at MSNN: Military Special Needs Network, and an Admin at Army Mommies 101. You can find Raven on Facebook, Twitter, or at her blog.