As a walk down any toy aisle will tell you, there are many types of toys for all ages of children. Most will indicate on the packaging what age they are geared toward (“for ages 2+”), but how do you know which toys will provide the best developmental opportunities for your child?
Choose toys that are open-ended.
Get the most bang for your buck by choosing toys that can be adapted as your child grows. For example, blocks are great for infants to bang together to practice cause and effect, as well as bringing their hands to the midline, a great exercise for the brain. Toddlers can begin to stack blocks for fine motor development. They can also use blocks to encourage imaginative play by pretending they are cars driving across the floor or as a telephone to call a loved one! Preschool children can use blocks to build more elaborate structures with playmates to encourage social skills and negotiating conflict. Blocks also enhance dramatic play and can be used to create a house for stuffed animals, a storefront for a restaurant, or bridge to connect people, things, and ideas.
Adapt “toys” you already have.
Parents joke that children often prefer the box the toy came in to the actual toy. Go with it! Let your creativity loose and find new purpose for items in your house. What about that mesh loofa? It makes a great sensory experience for infants, and it is easy for them to grasp as their hand-eye coordination is developing. It also makes a safe option for toddlers to throw and kick around the house. What about using it in paint for a unique texture on paper? Or add it your play with a doll or stuffed animal and practice the bath time routine. The possibilities are endless!
Don’t forget your child’s favorite toy: You!
Playtime is not necessarily about the type of toy, but how it is used in relation with the caregiver. As caregivers, our schedules are packed, but even just a few moments of playing peek-a-boo your infants or singing a rousing rendition of “Wheels on the Bus,” with your toddler, complete with motions, will help your child’s brain develop synapse connections as they learn about the world around them. Point out your eyes, nose, etc.during bath time with your little one or try playing I-Spy in the car on the way to the store with your preschooler. Your child learns best in the context of a loving relationship with you, so go ahead, have a tickle-fest in the middle of that toy aisle and take advantage of the most priceless toy your child could have! You!
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about developmentally appropriate toys, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439.
Becky Clark, MS, DT
Reference: Cook, R. E., Sparks, S. N. (2008). The art and practice of home visiting. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.
Photo by Susan Holt Simpsonon unsplash.com