Watch out!

“Mom, watch me!”

“MOM! Come here.”

“Watch me! Watch me!”

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM.”

When I hear this — as many of us parents so often do — I sometimes want to scream: “WHAAAAAT!?”

It always seems to happen the second I’ve just started something or when I’m just about done with something (but not quite) or when I’m just TIRED.

This is why it’s so tempting to plunk our kids in front of electronic devices — just so we can have a few seconds to use the bathroom alone or load the dishwasher in silence. Right?

Maybe it’s also why parents are so desperately in search of toys — especially this time of year — to “engage” our kids, which is to say “engross” or “keep them occupied without
adult intervention.” 

Well, let me tell you, this month’s magazine, our annual Toy Issue, is packed with toys that will keep your children out of your hair (at least for a little while) without the need for screens.

How did we choose toys? Well, we didn’t. 

We enlisted a team of 20 crazy-eyed humans age 0 to 10 to pick and choose and try out more than 125 toys, games and crafts. Our toy picks came from national manufacturers (who let us order the ones we thought we’d like) as well as local toy stores, where we shopped around and talked to local buyers who really know their stuff. 

I must admit, after doing this for five years, I’ve become pretty choosy (and pretty jaded), but it never fails: Every year I’m amazed at what toy companies have come up with to add fun, whimsy, educational value and just insane cuteness to the lives of our families.

I hope you have some fun with this issue and all the playthings we’ve trialed and photographed, too, with help from Tracy Walsh, the amazing Maple Grove photographer who coaxed smiles out of the most reluctant kids. (Where was that “WATCH ME!” spirit when the camera came out?)

Also, remember, these are just ideas — if you need them. Don’t feel you have to buy a single thing shown on these pages. After all, rampant consumerism isn’t exactly known for yielding the most well-rounded children. 

What our kids really want — whether they have a brand-new toy from Santa in their hands or a stick from the backyard — is for us to be with them, to “watch.” 

As our School Days columnist so wisely says in this issue: “A calm and present mother baking cookies, playing a game, reading a book or putting together a puzzle with her child will likely be a more valued gift than a frazzled mother offering her child an expensive toy.”

Happy shopping!