Children take their toys and playtime very seriously, and with good reason. Toys help them to learn and interact with the world in which they live. The right toys presented at the right age play a big role in a baby’s development, helping them to reach their milestones and grow into healthy toddlers and children.
With that in mind, it is easy to see why shopping for toys can be a frustrating affair. Given the plethora of toys out there, it’s no surprise that parents can sometimes feel confused and overwhelmed.
When looking for toys for babies or toddlers, it’s helpful to remember that the more interactive the toy, the better it is for the child. Parents should focus on what their baby can do with the toy rather than what the toy can do for their child. In fact, researchers discovered that electronic toys that talk, play music, or light up might delay language development in toddlers. This is because when playing with such toys, the baby really does nothing. They just sit and watch as the toy lights up, whirls around, or sings. The toy becomes more entertaining than educational.
Toys and babies’ development
Useful toys are those that encourage exploration and action from a child. Building blocks and stacking toys are good examples of these. They aid in developing babies’ motor skills as well as helping them learn about cause and effect. If the baby stacks a large block on a smaller one, it falls off. If they do the opposite, the block stays put and they learn from this.
Other than motor skills, toys can help babies to develop their sensory skills by engaging their sense of hearing, taste, sight, and touch. Interactive toys also assist in cognitive development by tapping into children’s innate curiosity and imagination, and encouraging them to solve problems and make new discoveries.
As children grow and learn to play with others, they begin to develop both socially and emotionally. Toys that encourage teamwork teach them how to cooperate, express themselves, and share with others, thereby enhancing their self-confidence and self-development.
Appropriate toys for different ages
When shopping for toys, parents should choose those that are developmentally appropriate for their babies. Babies develop at different rates, and what is best for one child might not be suitable for the other. Additionally, when going to the baby store, parents should select toys that grow with the child. The alphabet mat sold by the Skip Hop baby store is a good example of a toy that can be taken from one developmental stage to another. It can be used as a play mat for babies and toddlers, and can double up as an education aid for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Other age-appropriate toys are examined below:
Newborn babies can only focus on objects eight to 12 inches away. In the first few months of life, they grow rapidly and learn how to focus their sight and discern color and depth. Colorful stationary mobiles that play simple lullabies are perfect for keeping babies entertained up to four or five months of age.
As their vision develops and focuses, babies begin to take in the world around them. They begin to study people’s faces and often follow movement with their eyes. During this development stage, babies learn to lift their heads, reach for objects, turn their heads to follow movement and sounds, as well as put things in their mouths. They are also fascinated with their hands and feet, and can spend hours waving them about, making cooing noises.
Good toys at this age include things that they can grasp, shake, suck on, and hold, such as rattles, textured balls and rings, squeeze toys that make noise, and soft dolls. Playing with these helps to refine their motor skills and stimulate their senses. Since babies love faces at this age, parents can provide unbreakable mirrors or other reflective surfaces for the babies to gaze at. It is also a good idea to sing lullabies and simple songs to them.
By this time, babies are usually quite coordinated and can fully reach for and hold onto things. They are also quite active, having progressed from rolling over to creeping and crawling to finally pulling themselves up and standing on their own. They can recognize their own name and common words, and enjoy exploring and discovering hidden objects.
The best toys for them include things to build with, such as large building blocks/cubes or stacking rings; toys to drop, such as nesting toys like this; as well as toys such as large balls, walkers, plastic or wooden vehicles with wheels that encourage them to move around and exercise their muscles.
Children at this age can walk quite well and speak a few simple words. Many parents know how quickly one-year-olds can move and get underfoot, so it is prudent to keep an eye on them as they experiment and explore.
Ideal toys for them include crayons and non-toxic washable markers for them to doodle with as well as balls, smaller building blocks, and large jigsaw puzzles to stimulate their minds. They also enjoy toys to play pretend with, including puppets, dolls, toy phones, stuffed animals, and toy cars. Parents can introduce books with simple illustrations and colorful drawings that they can read together, as well as simple songs and rhymes.
This is the age of preschool and kindergarten. Toddlers at this age are very active and like to test their physical limits by climbing, jumping, rolling around, and rough-housing with siblings or other children. Their excess energy can be put to good use outside at a playground or generally exploring the outdoors.
At this age, parents can introduce more complex problem-solving toys such as construction sets, children’s jigsaw puzzles, toy cars to assemble, and doll houses. Toys to create with, such as play dough, paint or crayons, and coloring books, will be a big hit with toddlers at this stage.
From the age of four upwards, children can comfortably handle toys such as tricycles, rollerblades, and complex building toys such as Lego. Books should also be gradually introduced.
Playtime is just as important for a baby’s healthy growth and development as their diet. Parents should make every effort to ensure that their babies have suitable toys to interact and engage with to help them grow.