If it's shiny and electronic, while talking to your child and promising to make them the next Einstein - forget it! Child psychologist Roberta Golinkoff of the University of Delaware says you should save your money.
"They spend $75 to $100 on an electronic toy that's, quote 'building the brain,' and the kid loves the box and puts the toy to the side!" said Golinkoff.
Simple is better, Golinkoff said. She recommends toys such as blocks for building and arts and crafts for creating pictures, booklets or wall hangings.
She also recommends musical instruments and games that involve other people for learning negotiating skills.
Psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University says there are lots of good choices out there this year. "New construction toys in which you get to build amusement parks, you get to build castles," said Hirsh-Pasek. There are some other dos and don'ts when it comes to toys.
- Don't buy toys that do the work for your kids, like ask them to press buttons or levers. Make sure your gift requires 90% kid involvement and 10% toy. Children like to figure things out themselves.
- Flashcards and DVDs are a no-no. Games that involve other children are better for building social skills. Our experts authored a book titled "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards."
- Try to get your kids a toy that gets them up and moving. Physical activity is key.
- If the toy demands one right answer, like some programmed computer games, leave it on the shelf.
"Children don't need 1,000 toys. In fact, it makes them devalue the toys they have," she said.
If your children do end up getting a mountain of toys, it's better to put 2/3 of them away and just bring out a few each day. That way they appreciate each one.
Or, tuck half of the gifts away for their birthday and save some cash!