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Armin Brott - Mr Dad

Armin Brott - Mr Dad

Armin Brott is a nationally recognized parenting expert. The leading author of books on fatherhood, his best-selling works have sold millions of copies worldwide.

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Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I both work full time at good jobs, but with three year old twin boys, it's still hard to make ends meet, which means we can’t always afford to get separate toys for each one. Can you recommend any toys that the boys can enjoy together but won’t break the bank?

A: If your boys are like other twins I know, they don’t worry nearly as much about differentiating themselves as you do. In fact, they’ve probably been playing and sharing together for longer than you’ve been aware of it. Twins are like that, and that’s good news for you because at their age, they won’t feel shortchanged by sharing their toys. The bad news is that this will change as they get older.

Finding the perfect gift, the one that lasts, that gets played with over and over again, now there’s a true Herculean parenting task. In cases like this, I’m a big fan of the classics, and it doesn’t get much more classic than blocks. Plain wooden blocks, Legos, Megabloks, and others have the power to mesmerize a young child (and his father) for incredibly long stretches of time.

Both Lego and Megabloks make larger blocks for tinier hands (Duplo and Maxi, respectively). As the kids’ hand-eye coordination gets better, the blocks they want to play with get smaller and the building projects more elaborate. Best of all, getting down on your hands and knees and helping your child build the next Empire State Building, is a wonderful way to spend time together.

But wait, there’s even more good news about blocks. It turns out that children who engage in block play have better language skills and watch less TV than those who don’t play with blocks, according to Dr. Dimtri Christakis, the lead researcher of a just-released study from the University of Washington.

The University of Washington study (which was sponsored by Mega Bloks) is consistent with other recent studies. A recent study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a return to "true toys," like blocks, in which "children use their imagination fully, over passive toys that require limited imagination.”

So head down to your favorite toy store and pick up a good set of blocks. (Or, if you’re looking for a good do-it-yourself project and you’ve got the right tools, you can make one of your own). Either way, it shouldn’t break your holiday budget, and it’s a gift your boys will love sharing with each other, and with you.

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