Toys are the tools of childhood, educating and entertaining, but toy choices need to be age appropriate, exciting, and stimulating to your child’s developing brain. Toys should not only help your child learn, but also aid in the development of social, motor, and emotional skills. When choosing the right toys, age can be the key to unlocking the perfect toy, so let’s explore toys that way.
As babies, learning is exploration with the five senses. This learning includes touching, mouthing, banging, dropping, and shaking. As motor skills develop, babies’ interests change, but play is typically solitary or imitating others. At this stage, parents are the favored playmate, and this allows baby to start learning language, relationships, and more. During babyhood, here are some ideal toys for your little one to enjoy:
- A Mobile – Baby spends lots of time in the crib at first, where a mobile can aid visual development as well as attention skills.
- Classic Ring Stack – The classic cone with different colored rings offer lots of opportunity – learning to hold items, transfer the rings hand to hand, as well as later fitting rings onto the cone, and learning colors and numbers as the stacking and counting begins.
- Push-Pull Toys – These traditional toys of childhood help with motor skills, balance, and muscle development – all crucial to becoming a successful walker.
Babies quickly go to the next stage – starting to understand how things work and make the action happen. The development of fine motor skills and building strong growing muscles continues as they stack blocks, knock them down, push and pull toys controlling direction and speed, and begin to pretend. Smart toy choices for toddlers include:
- Shape-sorting Toys – From nesting cups to blocks to bucket with holes to fits blocks in, these shape-sorting toys develop problem solving and hand eye coordination.
- Balls – Gross motor skills, dexterity, hand-eye coordination are enhanced by rolling, bouncing, throwing, and catching balls.
- Role-play toys – Golf sets, Fishing sets, Doctor’s kits, Play Kitchens and Workshops, dolls, and stuffed animals encourage imitation and pretend to learn how the world works, while teaching little ones emotional and social development as well.
- Mechanical Toys – Fine motor skills and problem solving come easily when practiced with mechanical toys knobs, buttons, levers, and more.
Preschoolers have developed a number of skills and at this stage know how to use items for their intended purpose while still being able to imagine and pretend. A beloved blanket used for snuggling at night, becomes a clubhouse roof or a superhero cape by day. A play golf club can be used for putting one minute and the next becomes a sword for battling imaginary monsters or a magic wand for a fairy princess. Fantasy and pretend play is part of the preschool stage, as well as the need for approval as tasks are accomplished, the desire to play with friends, and an abundance of physical activity. Ideal choices for preschools include:
- Blocks and Building Toys – Problem solving, hand eye coordination, and imagination are developed as preschoolers build, create, and play with their creations.
- Arts and Crafts – Crayons, safety scissors, glue, modeling clay, and more come in here helping preschoolers improve fine motor skills, learn coordination, become more creative, and gain self-confidence.
- Puzzles – Puzzles are never out of style and teach coordination, spatial relationships, and logic to preschoolers.
The Best Toy for your Little One
As mentioned, you as the parent are the very best toy your child can have. As you teach them, talk to them, offer examples, sit and play, you help your child grow by giving them much needed encouragement, love, self-confidence, and security.