Expert Tips On Choosing The Best Toys For Toddlers To Teens

30/03/2011 10:44 | Updated 22 May 2015

Elaine Whiteman, top tips on choosing presents

It can be tough enough buying toys for your own child, let alone other people's.

Elaine Whiteman is the Toys and Books Buyer for department store John Lewis, so something of an expert on choosing presents all ages will love.

Here are her toy tips, from pre-schoolers to teens:

Tips for under 5s

It's so easy to fall into gender stereotypes, particularly with children of this age. Why not make an effort to avoid the obvious? Look at the child's existing play patterns and build on them. For example, if they love dressing up or construction then add to these themes - costumes for the dressing up box and new Lego Duplo supplies.

Toys and games that encourage interaction amongst siblings and friends are excellent for building social skills, so puppets, board games and role play toys are always a good choice.

Mini me toys are having a moment – look out for tiny supermarket trollies and mini kitchen appliances. Help develop children's awareness and understanding of technology with interactive learning aids such as Storio, Mobi go and Kiddizoom video cameras.

Improving hand to eye co-ordination is also vital at this age so John Lewis own-brand wooden toys are great choices – and always go down a treat with stylish parents!

Tips for age 5 to 10

If you know the child, you may be familiar with what brands they are already playing with such as Lego, Barbie, Sylvanian Families or Scalextrix, so have a look at what is new within these ranges.

Heirloom gifts are suitable for this age group - toys that make a lovely feature in the child's bedroom and could be kept for years to come, such as wooden doll's houses and kitchens or rocking horses.

Because of the high level of TV commercials targeting this age group you can be assured there will be lots of pestering going on! Latest crazes or products relating to TV shows or films are guaranteed to be a hit – look out for the Glee board game, Kung Zhu, Zhu Zhu or Harry Potter Lego.

Kids might sigh deeply when they unwrap a book, but choose one whose theme or central character you know will capture your kid's imagination and they'll want to read them over and over again. Look out for box sets or special editions, like Roald Dahl's Phizz-Whizzing Collection, a box set of all Dahl's children's books for just £34.99.

Last but not least, if you're shopping in store, don't forget to ask sales assistants for advice! They know their products better than anyone else and can advise on must-haves and what's been flying out the store.

Tips for age 10 and over

Sadly many children of this age and over are too busy topping up their mobiles or playing with their X Boxes to think about toys, but some children are still busy engaging in Lego Technic, Lego Mindstorms, radio control cars and Hornby trains.

And of course, they are never too old for stocking fillers! Retro favourites like whoopee cushions, potato guns, spy glasses and more recent additions such as 3D Doodle pads will always elicit a smile.

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