Education starts as soon as our children are born. Every look, every smell, every touch brings them something new and teaches them about the world around them. We can encourage our babies and toddlers to learn and develop their skills and senses through the toys that we give them. You might think of toys as something you just give them to keep them entertained, but if you think about your toy purchases and pick high quality toys that help development, you’ll be giving your children the very best start. Let’s explore what playtime can develop and the best toys to choose for that.
From the very first moment your baby hears your voice, his senses are activated. When he turns at a new sound, he’s learning something. Toys that stimulate the senses are some of the earliest toys that children can learn from. This includes things that make a sound, are different colours, or different textures. A rattle, for example, can be very stimulating and help baby development. Shake it and watch his eyes or head move towards the sound, then let him hold it and enjoy shaking it himself!
Fine Motor Skills
Any sort of building or balancing, picking up or placing down, turning or twisting, will be encouraging your child to develop fine motor skills. One of the best toys to start babies and toddlers off with are building blocks. At first they may simply play with the box and explore their shapes, or look at their colours. With time they will begin to stack them in simple piles, and then as they develop, will make more complex buildings that require balance and co-ordination.
Counting can start from something as simple as one pile is larger than another, and then as your child progresses, they can start to understanding the concept of counting up and down, or even start working in their brain on simple mathematics!
Promote Problem Solving Skills
Toys such as jigsaw puzzles and shape sorters will start your child on a journey of solving problems. They might find these sorts of toys frustrating at first, give them time to try to figure it out, but don’t push them or make them feel pressured. It should be fun at the end of the day. If they start getting frustrated, take it away and introduce something else, and then bring it out another day. You’ll be able to see their development over time as they eventually solve it!
Any toys that require co-operation or interaction between children or even between adults and children will increase their social skills. Children playing together can learn to interact, communicate, share and work together – all very useful tools for them to try to grasp before they head into school!
Roleplay toys allow children to start to develop their imagination. Toddlers will quickly become fascinated with the world around them, and may follow you, observe and even copy you with things like doing the laundry, sweeping the floor, watering the flowers, cooking, and so on. Giving them the tools to fully immerse themselves into a role will support their brain development. Toys for this can include dressing up, or toys such as wooden kitchen items or toy cleaning sets. Toys that set up certain scenarios such as farms, or this Knight’s castle will encourage them to make up stories through play.
Cause and Effect and STEM
From a very young age babies and toddlers can learn that your actions can cause something to happen. For example, push a button, and a sound is made, push a car and it moves forward. This very simple cause and effect will make connections in their brain that help them learn how to interact with other items, and even with people. It’s the first step towards realizing that they have an impact on the world around them, and starting to gain a sense of self that’s separate to the things happening in the world.
As they grow older they will start getting basic concepts about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and will start to connect the information they’re receiving and come to conclusions about it.
Language can be learned through listening and interacting, but also through playing. Games such as peek a boo, board books, puzzles, toys that have specific names, all of these can help toddlers learn language through play.
Remember to keep in mind at all times the more fun your kids are having, the more of their time and energy they will spend on something, and thus the more they will learn! Therefore toys need to be entertaining and interesting. Rotating toys can help give them something different and keep them interested, but if they’re not interested in a specific toy, don’t get frustrated or push them. Let them naturally choose the toys they have the most affinity to and keep exploring new options.