Selecting Toys to Encourage Your Child’s Learning & Development

Selecting Toys to Encourage Your Child’sLearning & Development_mini

Each Christmas brings a new crop of “must have” toys and games.  If your child has one of those on his/her list, check out reviews to see if it is worth purchasing.  Age appropriateness and the degree a toy taps into your child’s creativity are important to consider.  Toys that tap into creativity will likely keep your child engaged over a period of time.  It’s always a sad experience when a parent finds that their child is more interested in playing with the box than the toy or when the toy is used for a few days or weeks and then ends up in the toy box for good.

I think it is great when the number one toy on your child’s list is affordable and makes sense to you.  It’s a great feeling when parents can watch a child find the toy they have been longing for under the tree.  My suggestion is that you also select toys and games your child would like that also encourage creativity, learning or physical activity in addition to being fun.  These items tend to be used over and over again.

For infants and toddlers (6 months – 2 years) items such as stuffed animals, stacking and nesting toys, building blocks, simple puzzles, early ride-on toys, musical toys, and age-appropriate books and music are great.  These choices can produce many hours of fun activity that also stimulates intellectual, language, social and physical development.  Parents may need to guide the child at first to help them learn the tasks and once they get it use praise once in a while to spur them on.  Read books and sing along with the music to encourage language skills.  

One of the favorite things preschoolers (3 years to 6 years) like to do is pretend play.  Stuffed toys, dolls and action figures are great items for these guys.  Also, play sets let them imitate adult activity.  Art supplies are also welcomed along with more advanced building toys.  Continue with music for listening and more realistic instruments for playing.  Preschoolers will also be able to use a more advanced ride-on toy.  Other outdoor toys such as sport’s equipment, sandbox, playhouse and swing sets are great for keeping them outdoors more and having fun.  Books, card and board games, and a few video games or other digital items are great to help them develop basic learning skills as well as lead to quality one on one time with parents and family fun too!

School-age children (6 to 12 years) are more likely to be influenced by their peers and advertising to as to what toys and other gift possibilities are cool.  Again, check them out to be sure they would be right for your child.  This stage of development is a great time to expose your child to toys and games that support the acquisition of skills and knowledge associated with what is known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).  Again, video games and other digital items in moderation are great.  Know is a good time to expose your child to possible hobbies they might like.  Sports equipment and more advanced ride on items are really helpful to motivate for exercise and being outside.  Action figures and items such as vehicles or buildings that go with them encourage creativity, imagination, and social development.  Games that can be played with parents, sibs, friends and family encourage the development of social skills and encourage connecting with others. Books and music, as well as educational electronics, can make learning easier and more fun.  Consider a subscription to an age-appropriate magazine related to their interests or audio books can encourage independent reading but be sure to discuss them with your child as well.

I hope the suggestions provided will help you select the right gifts that will bring joy and excitement as well as encourage growth and development along with fun and spending time with others and getting outside more.  Below are some sites that can provide further guidance for you.

Toy Safety from Kids Health

Guide to all types of media (movies, TV, books, games, apps, websites) form Common Sense Media