As Christmas approaches, many parents find themselves dreading the time when they must decide exactly which slot is slot A and which screw goes where.
Once again parents will find themselves frantically raiding household devices for batteries on Christmas Eve because they didn’t read the instructions when they bought the toy.
Parents wouldn’t have to do this if they would just keep a few tips in mind when buying toys and trying to assemble them, says handywoman and syndicated columnist Beverly DeJulio.
DeJulio, who lives outside of Chicago, has been helping parents deal with toy anxiety for more than 20 years.
Since many kids want the same “hot” items, she recommends having a toy assembly party where all the adults present can help put together the toys. But she cautions parents to make sure they have a place to store the toys until Christmas, since many toys that require assembly are large.
DeJulio also suggests that parents look at the instructions before beginning to see if they are in a foreign language and to find out if any special tools are needed.
Many toys require only flathead and Phillips screwdrivers and a hammer. The hammer is not to be used to take your frustration out on the toy, DeJulio points out, but only to tap things into place.
It is also important to read the instructions through before you begin and to actually follow them.
“Many people look at the picture and say, ‘Oh, yep, I can do that,”’ DeJulio says. As a result, the toy will be improperly put together, and you will have to start over.
Here are more tips from DeJulio:
Estimate the time it will take to assemble the toy. Often an estimate will be printed on the package.
If you don’t have the patience or time to assemble a toy, ask the store if it will do the job for you. A store will usually do it for a small fee.
When you purchase a battery-operated toy:
Check the box to see what type of batteries are required and the size and number needed.
Don’t forget to buy the batteries when you buy the toy.
Since many toys and electronic games require up to eight batteries, purchase batteries in multipacks for more convenience.
Check battery packages for freshness dating. If you’re going to use batteries that have been around the house, test them for power with the tester included in some battery packages.
After you get the toy home:
Open the box so that it can be easily sealed again in case the toy has missing parts or malfunctions and needs to be returned.
Have a clean and spacious work environment. Keep liquids well away from the work area.
A spill can seriously damage a toy, particularly an electronic one.
Have a trash receptacle or box close at hand for disposal of packing materials, but hang on to the materials until you are sure no parts are still mixed in.
Keep all boxes and packaging. These provide useful information, such as manufacturer’s addresses, customer service information, and toll-free 24-hour “helpline” numbers.
Remove and study the instructions. Many people will tackle the job without reading - and regret it later.
If you look at instructions ahead of time and find them confusing, you can call the manufacturer or store for assistance.
It is important to use the correct tools for the assembly. You could void the warranty by improvising.
Carefully remove, identify and count all parts, making sure you have all those described in the instructions. Do not attempt to assemble if any parts are missing.
Keep all the instructions and loose parts (bags of screws, tiny parts) together with the necessary tools.
Save and label any spare parts.
Follow the instructions closely. Many parents skip steps and improvise, which can create unnecessary delays and problems.
Make sure the battery terminals are clean and dry. Use a pencil eraser to clean them, if necessary
Register the warranty and save the instructions on how to contact the manufacturer.