They come with batteries, they make loud sounds, they have annoying tunes that just don’t stop and stepping on them hurts more than a bee sting. Love them or hate them, toys are an inevitable part of your child’s life. Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about how we can use them to our child’s and our advantage.
Picking a toy for your toddler these days can honestly seem like a hard task. There’s too much choice, so many trends and almost every toy claims to be a learning experience. But we know better than that. These pointers can help you feel better equipped at choosing a toy without feeling overwhelmed when you walk into a toy store.
Although this should be a non-negotiable requirement from the manufacturer, it helps to ensure the toy is safe for your child. This means apart from being developmentally age-appropriate for your child, it should also be physically safe for your child to use. Nothing sharp or flimsy, no sharp corners, no small detachable parts that can be a choking hazard, especially for children below 3 years of age. Also, sturdy products will mean better chances of withstanding your child’s repeated play and exploring. Think wooden against plastic?
To your child, these might pale in comparison to the fancier, nosier battery operated toys, but nevertheless are helpful to your child’s learning and conceptual knowledge. While every other toy claims to be educational and essential to your child’s development, you can stick to the good old ones that every child has played and benefitted from. Puzzles, pegboards, building blocks, stacking cups are some good ones to start with. If your child is reluctant to use these, the best way to get them interested is to familiarise them with these toys. The more they use them, the more they will enjoy playing with them. Simple board games are also great for the family to play together, making it so much more enjoyable for your child. These toys also give them practice with problem-solving, logical thinking, spatial relation, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Some toys do everything for the child but your child is more likely to outgrow those quickly. If you take some time to observe your child’s favourite toys, you will be pleasantly surprised to see that it is the simple toys that they enjoy the most. Less is more when it comes to a good toy. The lesser it has, the more potential it holds. Children are little explorers by nature. They love to take things apart, stack things up, mix and match, open and close, put things in and out, you get the picture. Picking a toy that allows for manipulation and that can be used in more ways than one is great for your child as it can keep them curious, engaged and spark their imagination. Eg; Instead of picking up a toy laptop that your child only has to press buttons on to hear music and activity, pick building blocks that your child can manipulate to make different structures every time. The lesser a toy has, the easier it is to maintain, the lesser supervision it will need and the more it will keep your child engaged.
We’ve all seen it happen. We bring home a toy, our toddler squeals with delight, can’t stop playing with it for a week or two and then forgets all about it. This is because they outgrow it all too quickly. To help combat this, pick a toy that will grow with your child. From my own kid’s toy collection, I can see that building blocks, a set of construction vehicles, plastic figures and animals have withstood the test of time.
Pretend play is an important part of childhood development. It first emerges in children around their first birthday, between the ages of 11 -18 months, becoming more social around 3-5 years of age. It is reflective of a child’s development because it shows that the child has been observing their surroundings, learning from their environment and using their imagination. Children enjoy dressing up and role-play and this also gives them the opportunity to unleash their creativity and imagination. Also, pretend play is very entertaining for parents around. Win-win. I’ve found it helpful to put together a costume basket for my kids. All I’ve done is put in some props, hats, take out menus, a cape or two, a couple of masks and leave them in their toy cupboard. You don’t need fancy toys, but a simple kitchen set, plastic vegetables and fruits will also do. And never underestimate the potential of a simple carton box.
Almost every toy claims to be developmental but mostly turns out to be an expensive buy that fails to capture your child’s imagination and interest. So ditch the hype (and the batteries, when you can) and remember your child needs a few good toys rather than baskets full of many that don’t do anything for them. And when all else fails, never forget the joy, simple household items bring your child. Some bowls, spoons and boxes and you’ll have a happy toddler on your hands.