Want to play?
Marianne Szymanski, Arts '89 hasn't outgrown toys
Toy Tips and Parenting Hints Magazine and on toytips.com. She also co-authored Toy Tips, A Parent’s Essential Guide to Smart Toy Choices.
T oys can be a serious business. Not only do parents need to sift through the overwhelming selection and slick marketing, now they have to worry about safety, too. Fortunately, there’s toy watchdog Marianne Szymanski. As president of Toys Tips Inc., she tests thousands of toys and publishes the results in
Szymanski started Toy Tips as a young psychology grad working for LEGO. “I wanted to create an unbiased, independent source for parents,” she says.
In the company’s early years, Szymanski operated out of the basement of Marquette’s Krueger Child Care Center. It was an ideal location: The children upstairs were happy to be toy-testing guinea pigs. Toys Tips quickly took off and two years later, Szymanski began appearing on Good Morning, America.
For the past 17 years, Szymanski has tested more than 37,000 toys with her team of researchers, educators, parents and thousands of children. Dr. Marvin Berkowitz, a former Marquette psychology professor and Szymanski’s college adviser, helped create the testing methodology for Toy Tips’ research. After the toys are tested, they are donated to charity.
“What we look for are toys that are really fun and really developmental,” Szymanski says. “We’re not about the buzz.”
• The average American parent spends $350 to $700 a year on toys. Not Szymanski. “After doing it for so long I just realized they don’t need a lot of toys. They need a lot of different types of toys. There’s no need to go out and spend a ridiculous amount on toys.”
• Think simple and classic. A child can learn more from Lincoln Logs and art supplies than the latest “hot” toy.
• Watch the recall list. Any toy can be recalled anytime for any reason.
• Make sure the toy is age appropriate for your child. “Don’t go out and buy what everyone’s talking about just because everyone’s talking about it.”
• For a daily toy tip, plus the latest news on recalls, sign up for the free e-mail newsletter at toytips.com. Marquette alumni can also get a special subscription deal — two years for the price of one — on Toy Tips and Parenting Hints Magazine. For details, contact Szymanski at email@example.com and write “Marquette” in the subject line.