What is an Age Appropriate Toy in Adoption?

There is a lot of talking about children growing up too fast these days and they don’t know how to play any more. A while back I wrote about the Power of Play and how difficult it was for our two adopted boys to learn to play. I also wrote about the screen addiction our boys brought with them following their first adoption breakdown and how that hindered them in their healthy social development.

If you visit our house for the first time and take notice of the toys we have lying all around the house you would easily make the mistake of assuming we have 2 toddlers. In reality, our boys are 6 and 7; in a few weeks time they turn 7 and 8. So, why don’t we buy them age appropriate toys??

Ducks In A Row Bathroom Feelingmumyet Age Appropriate Toy

Ducks in a row in our bathroom

How do you define age appropriateness?

While I was researching this subject I came across lots of websites that offer guidance and useful articles from Parents.com to WebMD.com (click on the links for the actual articles) just to mention the 2 biggest advocate groups. And because we live in the digital age I also looked at their rating system, which is called PEGI. With PEGI I was very pleased to discover that they emphasise ‘The age rating is not intended to indicate the difficulty of the game or the skill required to play it‘ I think this is the key to understand our children’s playing habits and to know which games and toys will be helpful in their development and entertainment and which will cause more challenges.

Is it too childish?

When I went into a toy shop recently the helpful shop assistant asked me right away ‘How old is your child?‘ so she could direct me to the age appropriate isle. ‘It depends‘ was my response and you can imagine the looks I got.

According to his birth certificate he is 2 weeks shy from being 8. So, naturally the type of toys he should be getting for his upcoming birthday include video games with moderate violence and mild-moderate language, medium level complicated Lego sets, archery kit with sharp projectiles, puzzles over 500 pieces, or board games that require medium complex logical or mathematical skills to be enjoyable. Needless to say, he can’t manage any of them! Just to give you some examples:

  • He came to us with a Nintendo DS game rated PEGI 7 called Transformers. It involves a lot of killing, shouting, bad language, burning people alive… He was so confused he didn’t even believe me that the Autobats were the good guys and all he could think about was ‘torching the welcome wagon‘ and ‘the bigger the damage the more points you get’. All his drawings included weapons and everybody got killed and everything exploded and was destroyed. He was so cross with us when we took it away from him and we were so cross with the Foster Carer who gave it to him, just because he asked for it (‘all my classmates have it, I am almost 7 after all, I promise to be quiet if you buy it…‘)
  • They also had a wii racing game rated PEGI 5+ so we thought that shouldn’t be a problem. Well, our 6 year old often had nightmares in which the ‘giant evil penguin from this game‘ was chasing him. Just between us, there were no evil looking penguins in the game, just some big inflated CUTE penguins to cheer racers in the crowd – but for some reason he perceived it as scary. So this game was taken away as well until later. Together with Batman and a few others…
  • We have a Christmas tradition of working on a puzzle together. For the boys’ first Christmas with us we bough them an age appropriate one; we thought they might be able to manage it with our help. Well, we were wrong. Not just in believing that all those tiny pieces will not be lost in no time, but also in expecting them to sit still for more than 5 minutes (‘it’s so boring, it’s too hard, I don’t understand how to find a match, but these 2 pieces belong together just by their cut out shapes…’)
  • A few weeks ago we visited another church family for lunch. They have an 8 year old boy who had some archery toys. Without going into details my 6 year old managed to shoot him in the eye and then was surprised when the boy was screaming in pain because ‘in ninja turtles they always do this for fun and they never cry’.
wii game PEGI age rating Feelingmumyet

PEGI rating on our wii game

According to his mental and emotional age he is only 4…

He is quite tall and when he is in a happy chatty mood he could convince anybody that he is a brilliant 8 years old young man who knows everything about space and has excellent deduction skills. But a toy, which is designed to entertain such intelligence is usually very hard for him to solve or enjoy and instead of educational fun moments we get deep frustration and angry outbursts, which put him in a state of panic and it almost always results in a massive meltdown.

Both boys have missed out on so many developmental stages and not having age appropriate toys is just another indication of the neglect they were subjected to. So, instead of going to the isle for young men, I headed towards the toddler section. It didn’t take long to find the ducks! 🙂

Until recently they never had regular bath times like normal children do due to the constant wetting and soiling (they got regular showers whenever they had an accident). But a few months ago 6 started to have dry nights so he can enjoy now a bath every evening he hasn’t wet. It seems to motivate 7 as well to listen to his body more and don’t wait till the very last moment so lately he also had some special bath times. I say special, because for these boys it is indeed very rare and special, although it is getting more regular now! So when I saw those colourful plastic ducks (see picture above) I knew my boys will love them! Those ducks came with an age recommendation of ‘under 2’, but since they have never had bath toys in their lives they embrace it now fully. In a sense when I am pushing the ducks towards them in the bath filled with bubbles we not only have a jolly good time, but I am also filling in the gaps in their development. I am sure soon they will think it’s childish, but for the time being they love it!

Colouring in Robot Feelingmumyet

Both 6&7 love colouring in and they love it even more when I work with them on the pictures!


34 thoughts on “What is an Age Appropriate Toy in Adoption?

  1. Tubbs says:

    It’s easy to get fixated on the appropriate ages for toys but as long as they’re learning and having fun, it doesn’t matter. Our friends foster and they’ve had similar experiences to you and say it’s important to look at where the child is, meet them there and then teach them new skills. Seeing the changes in the kids they’ve cared for over time has been amazing! Good luck!


  2. Sadie says:

    I think the child is the only indicator of whether a toy is appropriate, so your approach is perfect. Your boys sound like they’ve had a tricky start to life, but they can’t fail to thrive with someone as thoughtful and conscientious about their development as you strike me as. And the ducks are cute!


  3. thetaleofmummyhood says:

    I think it’s great that you have recognised what toys are right for your boys right now and what will benefit them most. Just because their age says so, doesn’t mean they will get the best from certain toys. Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx


  4. mums' army says:

    It’s so true how we pigeon hole children into using what is deemed to be age appopriate toys, I found I was more like this with my first but not so much with my second. Sounds like you are using the right approach for your boys and just going with your own instinct and their feelings xx #Blogstravaganza


    • feelingmumyet says:

      Hello there, thanks for commenting. I guess you learn a lot after your first child… for me they came together 🙂 So we experiment on both boys at the same time to know what’s good and what’s not yet.


    • feelingmumyet says:

      Thanks! The more people I talk to the more I realise it’s not exclusively an ‘adopter problem’, many birth parents feel that the age labels on certain toys don’t correspond with their children’s maturity age. Thanks for reading


  5. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... says:

    Agree with you totally. There are so many different levels to consider for age appropriateness: sensitivity, emotion, reading, experiences, skills, interests. I think younger children are exposed to more things because of their elder sibling so grow up faster in comparison #blogstravaganza


    • feelingmumyet says:

      Yes, they do, but it really shouldn’t be like that! I find myself often explaining to younger one why he can’t have the same as older bro simply because he is too young. He doesn’t like it, but I know I am only helping him so I keep doing it. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  6. Vaila Morrison (@inclusivehome) says:

    I think you are doing exactly the right thing, much better to find something that engages the boys and enables them to play and learn!
    My daughter has developmental disabilities and we just choose things we think she’ll like, often marketed at younger children, but sometimes older children (particularly when it comes to music! She loves music so she has a regular Ukulele and various percussion instruments!) #spectrumsunday


  7. Bread says:

    There’s so much to think about and I think age appropriate depends on the kid, my nephew is dyspraxic and has ADHD and he couldn’t play anything with shooting for the longest time because he would get too worked up after playing it. #kcacols


  8. Kimberley Welbank says:

    As a teacher I often see that one size doesn’t fit all even in a class full of children the same age. A really interesting post x
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time.


  9. ethannevelyn.com says:

    This is such a sweet post. A little bit of adventure in the bath tub. I love hearing how you connect with your kids. I think everyone can learn from this. Thank you for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost xx


  10. Imperfect Mum (@imperfectmumx) says:

    What a caring, understanding and inspiring mum you are. You obviously know your boys well and love and accept them for exactly who they are! I have a son with special needs so have always had a problem with this age appropriate business. I wish they would change it! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉


    • feelingmumyet says:

      Thanks for your kind words! I often say adopted children do have invisible/not obvious special needs! Poor boys often get upset when I tell them they are not mature enough for a toy… 😦


  11. Ordinary Hopes says:

    It is very similar here, though for different reasons. My 10 year old has physical disabilities and learning disabilities and it isn’t always easy to accept that “age appropriate” toys are not always appropriate. #KCACOLS


  12. rainbowsR2beautiful (@rainbowsaretoo) says:

    David is six but emotionally and mentally is more like two and half. He is also seriously ipad addicted so when he plays with toys it’s not always what people would think as ‘age-appropriate’. They are appropriate for him and his development goals and surely that’s all that matters. Thanks for linking to #spectrumsunday and sorry again for the late commenting.


    • feelingmumyet says:

      Yes, I realised it doesn’t matter what’s age appropriate for my sons, at the moment they’re very happy colouring in so that’s what we do! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!


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