Rev up your engines, powerful parents and gracious gift-givers! With Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend upon us, the daunting task of preparing that big holiday meal AND snagging all the best holiday gift-giving deals is right is upon us.

But you know that. You are prepared.  Most of us have already reviewed the sneaked  Black Friday lists, done our online research price-comparisons and built a strategy with our friends and family about who will cover which stores and who will buy which hot items!

But let’s take a step back this year. We are more prepared than ever to get the best deals, but have we  covered all of the bases?  Here’s a checklist that you may want to consider to add that extra layer of preparedness to your Holiday shopping regime, especially for the toys and games in your kids’ lives…

  1. Let’s take a few minutes and re-assess. You have asked your kids what products are on their wish lists, so you may know the name of their favorite branded treasures…the ones that they just gotta  have.  We work hard for our money, and we want to ensure that every precious penny spent is on a product that will be used often, and become treasured. And although we want our kids to be popular, we also want them to be active, empowered, imaginative, creative thinkers. We want them to be hands-on with their playthings, to learn a little something in the process and to grow up to be balanced young adults.
  2. – What are your kids’ interests and skills? What are their dreams, and what are they passionate about? Are there any areas that they are neglecting in their lives, and is there a great toy or game that could encourage their passion, or fill a need? Fill in the gaps with toys and games that deliver on playfulness,  offer challenges and encourage interactive, imaginative play. (Check out the skill sets in the Toy Insider guide , listed beside each toy to target particular skills).
  3. – It is all about balance, right? At least that’s what we parents tell ourselves. How can we set the bar for our kids to be balanced, and active, imaginative, social and gracious, intelligent and caring. It starts with their tools, their playthings and how they develop their minds, bodies and  spirit and keeping a playful and fun, positive attitude toward life, and others.
  4. – Dig deeper. What areas would you like to share with your kids, and how can their toys and games give you more quality time together.  Can you play social games together more often?  Many games today have both cooperative and competitive sets of rules, so they can be played many different ways. There are also many short-play timed games where you can have a great experience in 20 minutes or less. Engage more often, build great bonding and learning moments. Create daily long-lasting memories. (Click here for a list of family and social games to share)
  5. – Hands-on experiences teach kids valuable lessons and bring great AHA moments. Choosing a toy that is interactive and encourages experimentation leads to building self-esteem. Constuctable games is a new category this year and Lego, Megabrands and Hasbro Games have all designed games that you build, teaching kids about empowerment, building and social skills, since after the game is built, you play it! (Click here for a list of new constructable games)

Take a few minutes now, and look over the list that your kids have given you, and then take a look at the variety of toys that are described on these pages. These toys and games have been reviewed and chosen by a different set of toy experts, the ones who hear all of the pitches and then whittle down the list to the top 100. The Toy Insider selections are designed to appeal to different ages and genders,  to promote different skills, and to encourage a wide range of activities and learning moments. Take a  second, fresh look at your toylist, and see if you have your bases covered. By  building the tools in our kids toybox to develop all of their skill sets, we are better preparing them for a life of learning and making good choices.

Go get-um, prepared parents and caregivers, and have fun in the process. Your sanity is important, too. All week, and throughout the Holidays, we will offer additional tips and tricks.  So come back often.

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