There are always a plethora of exciting gadgets and playthings on sale at any children’s toy store. It’s always tempting to buy the latest, in-fashion products with the newest technology or attention grabbing features. In some instances however, “more” doesn’t necessarily mean “better”. When buying toys for a baby or young child, it is important to first identify if the toy caters to the learning abilities that they need at that particular stage of their growth and development.
The easiest way to do this is to base it on their age. If the child is a typical learner, then their mental age will be the same as their biological age. Children that are gifted or those with special needs will have a different mental age to their biological age, and toy purchases should be made accordingly. Once you have an idea of the child’s mental abilities it will be easier to pick an appropriate toy for them.
As babies, the developmental areas or skills that every parent should focus on are their gross and fine motor skills. This is especially true for the newborn children who are transitioning towards toddler stage. For babies, gross motor skills include the crawling, rolling, raising of the head, and tilting it from side-to-side. Rolling is the first skill that is learned, followed by crawling, walking and then running.
Children usually learn rolling and crawling by themselves, however, if a child shows signs of difficulty in performing these tasks, colorful mats from tummy time can be useful. They are visually appealing to the child and encourage them to flip over in a comfortable setting. Placing a plastic mirror in front of the child can also help promote their receptive and social skills. Numerous health benefits have also been given that encourage parents to engage their children in tummy time activities.
Fine motor skills can also be improved through the use of tummy time mats that have their own arch/gym. These will encourage the baby to touch the dangling items and reach out and grab the toys. These toys usually light up or shake which engages the child in the learning experience.
Other items that are perfect for fine motor skill development are rattles and soft books. If you want to inspire creative play for your baby, soft toys like some of these from Colette Bream are perfect. For slightly older children more advanced and complex toys such as the range of doll houses and accessories from Djeco are a good option. If you have a boy, some wooden toys might be more appropriate, take a look at the range of wooden toy cars here from Automoblox.
Having the right toys is just one part of the learning process. The most important aspect of any toy would be how it facilitates interaction between parent and child. It is always more fun and meaningful when the parent or caregiver plays with the baby. Match the sounds made by the object by identifying what object or animal usually makes that sound. Use hand-over-hand prompts to help the child manipulate the object properly. All of these seemingly small actions are the parts which really help the child grow and learn. No toy can every replace genuine guidance.