“It is a happy talent to know how to play,” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Toys help foster children’s play development. Toys are one of the first opportunities that a child has to explore and interact in their environment. They open up a world of learning opportunities through education of play. Toys provide developmental growth when it comes to cognition, language, motor skills, and social interactions (plus many more). They create opinions, reactions, and fun experiences. These experiences allow a child to engage independently and socially. Toys must be introduced and used interactively with another social/ communitive partner (i.e. an adult or parent). A child must learn how to functionally play with a toy in order to use a toy to the fullest.
Although toys have many benefits for toddlers and preschoolers, having too many toys can feel overwhelming and distracting. A toddler can feel distracted by the overload of toys and not use the toys to their full potential. A toy must be introduced to a toddler first to learn the functionality of the toy. Too many toys can distract a child from focusing their attention on one toy at a time. Many children will pick up toy bins/containers, dump them out, move them around, the room, instead of using them for their functionality. Using a toy functionally with adult assistance will help a toddler use the toy to the fullest. After a child is done using a toy having them clean up and move on to the next activity will help with the growth of their attention span. Having too many toys does not encourage the growth of their attention span.
- When your child gets a new toy engage with the toy together first! Get on your child’s level (one the floor) and look at the toy together! Talk about what the toy is, what the toy can do, and play with your toddler and the toy.
- Example: “Wow look at your new red car! I love how shinny it is. Vroom Vroom let’s see how fast the car goes!”
- Select toys that have multiple developmental benefits. For example, find toys that can be used to benefit cognition and language growth.
- This is a great resource for developmentally appropriate and functional toys: https://www.therapyshoppe.com/
- Organize your child’s toys into bins to help your child organize what they are playing with.
- Use pictures to highlight what toy goes in which bin
- Switch out the toys and the bins to keep things fresh.
- Example: don’t have all your toys out at reach for your child at all times. Put some toys out of sight so that your child can focus their attention on the toys in front of them.
Have fun playing!
Rachel Weiser, MS, DT