Photographer Dennis Di Laura Stylist Xu Job# 1249680A retouch: Peter Kaye

Toys are so much more than just playthings. All children learn through play, and aside from basic skill building, toys can teach kids moral values and help them enhance and embrace their individuality. Being “different” is often shunned at the grade school level, especially with increased bullying in schools and on the Internet. Kids need to learn how to love what makes them unique and build their self-esteem, and there are many toys on the market that help them do exactly that.

Consumers are often critical of Barbie, from Mattel, arguing that her appearance is unrealistic and leads girls to feel self-conscious about their less-than perfect bodies. However, let’s not forget that first and foremost, Barbie teaches girls that they can be anything they want, including a chef, a scientist, a doctor, and a veterinarian. Though she may love her mascara, she is a power woman at heart and she gives kids the confidence they need to pursue their dreams. In the July/August edition of The Toy Book, we featured dolls of all shapes and sizes, and many of them teach kids important moral values, including nurturing techniques, celebration of individuality, and the importance of environmental conservation. Check out the full dolls showcase on page 31.

It is important for kids to establish a good sense of self-esteem at a young age. Construction toys leave kids with a feeling of accomplishment, which is important for establishing self-esteem. Whether they use their building blocks to mirror the image on the box, or they make their own creation, they have accomplished a goal and built their own play set. With so many products for so many different age groups on the market, providing kids with innovative construction toys will help them establish a strong sense of self. For some great options, check out the construction toys showcase beginning on page 15.

In addition to learning to accept themselves, kids must also learn to embrace the differences in others. Though typically competitive, board games can encourage team play, sharing, and patience. All of these skills are important for kids to learn and will help them become more tolerant of differences in their peers. In turn, these values will help lessen bullying and increase tolerance of individuality. Turn to page 22 to see some of the latest and greatest board games for kids (and adults).

With so many benefits for kids beyond keeping them occupied for a few minutes, toys are an important part of shaping personality and moral values.

For more commentary from Marissa, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!