Flap your arms like a chicken, flap your arms like a chicken
Make a sound like a chicken, make a sound like a chicken

How would you like to have that lyrical prose running through your head day and night?

Elmo wants to be a chicken, Elmo wants to be a duck

Pure genius. OK, you must know I’m being facetious here. Our daughter was given the Chicken Dance Elmo doll by some very well-meaning, and quick-thinking loved ones (quick enough to get rid of this toy, fast). Let just me say this now: Chicken Dance Elmo is about one of the most mind-numbing toys you can ever get your kid (see it in action, here). There I’ve said it. Flap your arms like a chicken, indeed.

When choosing toys for your children, you should pick ones that stimulate mental and motor development and reinforce personal relationships, experts say. Toys should stimulate creativity, imagination, and change…hmmm…yes! things that serve any human being regardless of age. Picking toys that are simply the latest fad may not only submerge your child in banality, but might also hamper necessary developmental skills so crucial for young ones.

Toys that stimulate important mental and physical skills include blocks, video games, dolls or any other toy that forces a child to create scenarios. Unless your child is creative enough to devise an end to Chicken Dance Elmo–with a sledge hammer, perhaps–then this toy probably isn’t it. According to Paula Kramer, chair and professor of occupational therapy at the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, “Parents often feel like they have to rush out and get ‘the toy of the moment’; these toys may be interesting, unique and novel, but they’re not always the best thing for the child or the toy with the longest life.”

I can vouch for that. My daughter definitely finds Chicken Dance Elmo a novelty…for now; but I can’t imagine any kid finding it interesting beyond a couple of months. Maybe, just maybe, if mechanical engineering is their thing; but outside of that, I doubt it.

Experts also say that any toy which promotes interaction with parents, siblings, or playmates is a big plus. So if your child asks you to color with him–color. If he asks you to play video games–play. The time and energy spent is well worth it; and Junior will benefit from the exchange. The only thing I can’t recommend is flapping your arms like chicken. Ever.

More on choosing toys, here.

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