Learning through play is a very important part of every child’s development. Play gives children different physical, sensory and cognitive experiences that can help them develop cognitively, physically, emotionally and socially. Having enough time to play can allow children to release extra energy and to get a better idea about who they are and the world around them. Even during infancy, children’s minds are expending just by looking at their environment.
That being said, what you can do as a parent is to provide your little one with different toys that will allow them to do more than just observe the surroundings – to get involved in the world and learn different skills they will need later in life.
Baby Play Toys – No Child Is Too Young to Learn
When is the appropriate time to introduce your little one to toys? Well, as soon as you notice that they begin reaching for things and have developed a firmer hand grasp. That being said, children as little as three months old can start playing with different things that don’t necessarily have to be toys.
But even if young children generally aren’t fussy when it comes to playthings, parents should be. Toys shouldn’t be only fun, but they should be age-appropriate, stimulating and safe. That being said, getting safe and educational baby play toys is very important for social, mental, physical and emotional development of very young children. With the help of the right toys, babies can develop their fine motor, problem solving and conflict resolution skills, as well as learn how the cause and effect relationship works. Having said that, parents shouldn’t consider play toys just as items to keep children entertained, but as developmental learning tools.
How to Choose Age-Appropriate Toys
Babies from 0 to 12 Months
From an early age, children are eager to learn about the world around them. Every shape, colour, texture, taste and sound is a learning experience for them. That is why, in order to discover their senses, parents should consider giving them toys that are stimulating and safe. Having said that, the best way to stimulate your child’s senses is to use different sensory toys that promote brain development. Sensory play is beneficial in many ways and can contribute to early development and education.
The first couple of months, rattles and play toys that produce music like small portable toys with lights and sounds, are the favourite ones for babies. Also, toys with contrasting colours can be fascinating to them and stimulate their developing vision. As they continue to grow and develop hand-eye coordination, infants start using toys to explore object permanence and cause and effect relationships. So, parents should begin introducing infant play toys that encourage more interaction, like different blocks and stackers that can also help build motor skills.
As babies become more active, they can start playing with problem-solving toys. These infant play toys can help them work through conflicts and become more familiar with the cause and effect relationship. That means that eventually, babies will start asking themselves different questions, like what will happen if they do this or that, and so on. So, once they figure out how a certain toy works, they can gain confidence and be eager to learn more.
Other types of toys that can be great at this age are those that promote movement like crawling around learning centres, multicolour baby walkers, light up dance mats with sound and more.
Toddlers from 12 to 24 Months
At this age, toddlers enjoy playing “pretend”. So, this is the perfect time to introduce themed toys, themed books, trucks, toy cars, school buses, dress-up clothing, stride and ride toys and more. Themed playsets are one of the best educational toys to include in this period of the child’s development because they can increase their curiosity and help develop recognition skills.
For example, if the themed set involves animals, that will help your child learn their names very easily. Also, when kids reach one year and more, they learn to walk and become very mobile. So, toys like push cars, stride and ride toys and walkers can be of great help in teaching them how to maintain their balance.
Young Children from 2 to 4 Years of Age
As children become a bit older and more active, they learn a lot about socialization and continue to do a lot of pretend play. Miniature farms and house sets can be perfect to exercise their imagination, while different craft kits can develop their creativity. Also, in this period kids make huge gains in both fine and gross motor skills, so toys like puzzles, blocks, Legos and other construction play toys can be perfect.
This is a period when parents can introduce toys that promote more physical play as well. That being said, showing your kid how to use certain toys like a tricycle or a balance bike can be of great help for your child’s physical development.
Avoid Flashy Toys and Keep Your Child’s Playthings Simple
When buying toys for your child, one of the most important things is to keep them simple. In other words, don’t buy play toys that do too much, because that way your child won’t be able to use their own imagination. So, when your kid plays with toys, they should be the ones directing the action. That being said, instead of buying dolls and stuffed animals that sing or talk or toys that take charge of the play situation by directing your kid to press certain buttons, buy an ordinary baby doll, a classic teddy bear or a stuffed bunny.
Limit Screen Time
Since we live in an electronic age, it is impossible to keep kids away from computers, TVs, iPads and other electronics. However, for young children, it’s crucial to set limits. Research has shown that electronic devices pose a serious danger to children’s health and development and parents should seriously consider limiting screen time. If not, sitting in front of the TV, computer or smartphone for a long period of time can cause a lot of serious health problems such as weight gain, hearing toss or language and developmental delays. That’s why, pediatricians advise that you should not allow children under the age of 2 to watch TV or play video games at all, and for children over 2 to limit screen time from 1-2 hours a day.