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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Nintendo 64, Holiday Barbie and Tickle Me Elmo not to be found? Don’t despair.

 That “must have” toy has sent plenty of parents on frantic, down-the-aisle races this holiday shopping season only to find empty shelves.

But Dr. Connie Steele, a University of Tennessee child and family specialist, said Thursday parents who can’t find or afford that non-existent toy still can avoid long faces on Christmas morning.

 Involve the child in finding other toys, said Steele, professor and head of the UT-Knoxville department of child and family studies.

 “Be honest. With older children, tell them, ‘That toy you told us you wanted, we just could not find it,”‘ she said.

 “It is not denying the child’s wish. It’s saying we couldn’t find it.”

 Then, take the child to look for other toys or games, Steele said. An outing to the toy store can be fun for both child and parent, Steele said.

For children who still believe in Santa, the situation is a little more difficult but the idea of searching for alternative toys still applies, she said.

 “Say to the child, ‘We need to look for that to see if we can find it.”‘

 If the shelf is empty, mom or dad can introduce the idea that Santa may not have it either. Parents can then discuss what other toys wants and encourage them to try other things, she said.

 For younger kids, Steele says ask if the toy or game is fun for “us” — because parents’ playing with the child makes the toys valuable to the child and parents.

When put into the context of allowance — dimes, quarters and dollars — even young children can understand that some toys cost too much, Steele said. They also learn that several toys can be purchased with the same dollars as the expensive one, she said.


 Contact: Dr. Connie Steele (423-974-4582)