"Don't give in to the pressure from the media and the school playground to buy the most expensive, latest toys on the market. Often toys that children will play with over and over again don't make it into the top ten lists" says Amanda.
Amanda and her team set up the Good Toy Guide to provide a free, easy to use resource for parents and relatives buying presents for children. By rigorously testing all toys featured on the website in play clubs and explaining what children get from playing with the toys, parents are able to choose more wisely and avoid the costly mistakes that end up at being 5-minute wonders.
On average parents spent £136 on their children's Christmas presents alone last year. Amanda encourages parents not feel pressured into over-spending but to concentrate on sharing quality time with their children.
There is a big danger of parents trying to over stimulate their children at Christmas. Whilst Amanda strongly believes that Christmas is about time together before toys, with all good intentions parents want to make the most of the quality family time together but overload their children with outings and activities, whereas children are craving a little downtime just as much as mum and dad.
Starting simple Christmas traditions and rituals that they will remember for years to come will be treasured more. For example, reading a Christmas book, snuggling with the kids in front of movies you watched when you were young, walks along the high streets at night to see the lights are just some suggestions from Amanda of ways to create memories that don't break the bank.
Amanda's advice to parents on buying presents is simple:
- Do your research and make sure that the toys you do buy are going to keep the kids entertained past Boxing Day.
- Don't base your judgment of what to buy your children on the latest list of top sellers - these lists don't tell you whether a toy is any good, they just tell you what is selling.
- If you buy the latest licensed product or screen based or digital toy, be prepared for your children to spend the rest of Christmas day glued to it, but that doesn't mean it's always a bad idea. Many high tech toys are developmentally beneficial and licensed toys are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
- A careful selection of other toys and games can help balance out any single toy and provide the child with a range of play choices that will suit different situations and promote different skills.
- Active toys have been shown to increase the amount of time children spend playing actively and creative play helps build confidence and self-expression. Concentration and perseverance are important skills and many quieter toys, e.g. puzzles and construction projects help children develop these.
The idea of a play diet features in Amanda's work and it's a theme that runs through her website www.goodtoyguide.com where people can get advice on how different toys can help children develop different skills and should help ease some of those Christmas shopping quandaries and stop parents over spending.
Read more about Amanda's thoughts on Christmas top 10 lists in 'The Anti-List' on the Good Toy Guide website http://www.goodtoyguide.com/2012/09/17/the-anti-list-top-christmas-toys/