The serious business of buying toys for children

Toys and games have been swallowing up a significant part of the annual family budget over the last few years, much to parents’ despair, especially when the festive season draws near. And the ever-growing list of demands made by youthful consumers rather militates against the fact this year’s prices for toys are lower than last year’s. At the same time, experts draw parents’ attention to the fact that many toys in fact contain hidden dangers, while having too many toys at a young age can be decisive for a child’s future development. «What was on TV» is the most common phrase uttered to toy store assistants by both parents and children. Dimitris Kalogeropoulos, head of a central store of the Zacharias toy chain, told Kathimerini, «Even if it’s a monster, they see it on TV and they buy it.» Toys in the most demand are those most advertised on TV: the latest version of the Barbie doll for girls, remote-controlled cars and electronic games for boys, and board games for everybody. This year, however, according to Kalogeropoulos, the prices of most products have dropped due to intense competition. The cost of board games (once 100 euros) ranges from 10 to 40 euros, remote-controlled models cost between 15 and 50 euros (two years ago, they could be as much as 200 euros) while Barbie dolls cost between 10 and 40 euros, depending on accessories. Electronic games have remained stable, with the device costing Between 80 and 140 euros and game cassettes ranging between 10 and 80 euros. From this long list of toys and games, parents have to pick which they will eventually buy. According to child psychologist Stavroula Kominakou, it’s an important process. If the parents know how to choose, the child will also grow up with the ability to make his or her choices. A basic criterion for parents is to what extent a toy or game develops violence and aggression. Kominakou explains: «Aggression is an innate human instinct. But parents should not cultivate it, neither through toys nor with their behavior.» Adults should also opt for toys and games that have educational aspects, while at the same time being careful to ensure that they are appropriate for the child’s age. They should avoid games and toys that require just one player, because it leads children to isolate themselves. «When young, children are intensely egotistical and prefer to play by themselves. This is why parents must socialize them through games,» said Kominakou. She added parents had to be careful when turning on the television, «because children are very imitative and want what they see.» An overriding consideration when buying toys should, of course, be children’s safety. The Center for Research and Prevention of Injuries among the Young (KEPPE) says around 2,200 children under 14 end up in outpatients’ departments every year in Greece due to accidents caused by toys. Research by Consumers International on product safety has shown that 63 percent of toy-related deaths in the EU every year are due to suffocation. Choking is a close second.