Choosing the Smartest Toys for Under the Tree
Expert Says the Most Enduring Gifts for Kids Aren’t Always the Flashiest

Parents beware:  Buying your child the “must have” toy of this holiday season might result in excited yelps initially, but the thrill may be gone long before the first change of batteries.

Lyn Rodriguez Neisius

Lyn Rodriguez Neisius

Choose toys that are safe, developmentally appropriate and engaging enough to keep your child interested over a longer period of time, suggests Lyn Rodriguez Neisius of UT Dallas’ Center for Children and Families.

Select toys that are flexible and can be used for multiple purposes. For example, children can use blocks for building, but also for sorting and as props in imaginative play.

She recommends avoiding electronic toys for children younger than 4 years old because they limit exploration and communication with playmates.

As director of the UT Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences’ Juega Conmigo, or Play With Me, program, Neisius offers the following toy shopping list:

  • Dress up items: Hats, beads, cowboy boots and raincoats can be used by children in pretend play.
  • Riding toys: Tricycles, wagons and, eventually, skates and scooters will help children develop motor skills.
  • Toys that allow the children to make believe they are adults: Kids may enjoy “cooking” with a toy food set or conducting “exams” with a doctor’s kit.
  • Age-appropriate board games: Playing games teaches children to take turns and gives them opportunity to communicate with others.
  • Art supplies: Crayons, paints and paper will let your child show his or her creative side.

Tips for a Safe and Happy Holiday

Beware of ID Thieves, Criminology Prof Warns

Thieves employ a variety of techniques to steal identities and profit from them. Most offenders steal personal information from dumpsters, mailboxes, purses or wallets, according to Dr. Lynne M. Vieraitis, an associate professor of criminology in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at UT Dallas.

“Even though there are substantial data breaches and organized criminal groups that deal in stolen credit card numbers, the typical identity thief is similar to other street criminals or middle-class fraudsters,” she said. “Protect yourself by shredding personal data and mail, and don’t leave valuable items unattended.”

Keep Financial Worries in Check 

The holidays are a time for giving, but if you’re not careful with budgeting, financial troubles may pop up after the joy of the holiday season ends. Jared Pickens, a professor of finance in the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas, says that with some planning, there are ways to actually save during the holidays.

“Set a limit on spending per person, draw names to avoid buying for an entire family, or exchange homemade gifts,” he said.Pickens also suggests e-cards instead of traditional paper cards and recommends comparing prices online to find the best deals.  Above all, he says, use cash. Credit card purchases can more than double the purchase price of your gifts in the long term.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].