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Children love to play and they really like toys – a lot! The misconception about toys is they provide entertainment only. Many of us don’t realize that toys assist with child development. Most toys provide an opportunity for an infant or toddler to learn by touching, feeling, looking. Play toys are designed to ignite imagination, to stimulate the senses and to encourage engagement.
The Importance of Play
Children make sense of the world around them by playing. Play is the key to learning -as children develop social skills, cognition, and self-confidence. Play is considered a physical activity, engaging the full body. This contributes to muscle development, coordination and integrating fine and gross motor skills. For children, the act of playing is a lot more than just fun and games.
How Toys Help
Playing with toys opens up an infinite world for children. The power of a child’s imagination surpasses any electronic device we can manufacture. Toys help children to develop their senses. By coloring or stacking blocks they are utilizing fine-motor skills, learning about color, balance, and even cause and effect – simply by touching and seeing. Some toys, such as walkers and push bikes engage the large muscle groups, helping with core muscle development and gross motor skills.
Toys for Infant Development
Toys that encourage physical activity can even spark a child’s choice in sport as well as teaching them to lead an active lifestyle. From the time they are born, babies are given toys to hold onto, motivating them to use their hands and feet. They learn about the tangible world through reflex movements which they later master control of. Toys with contrasting colors are fascinating to infants and are excellent for helping stimulate and improve their vision. As an infant grows and develops, they gain more control over their movements. They discover object permanence (just because they can’t see it, the object is still there), as well as refining eye-hand coordination. Even at this stage, they are learning about color, shape, texture and sound. Toys provide great incentive for an infant to move, and have been very popular when used to encourage crawling and walking.
Toys for Toddler Development
Toddlers are able to play with a wider variety of play things as their fine and gross motor skills continue to evolve. Toys that are designed for their particular age can provide them with different educational learnings. Many parents become obsessed with the “teaching” ability of a toy when making a purchase and may forget that they still need to be fun. Shape sorters are great toys for toddlers. Through trial and error, kids learn to solve problems, persevere, and celebrate achievement. Cognitive development is important at this stage as it sets the stage for a child’s future math and language abilities. The growing trend is to give children objects that they encounter in their everyday lives such as cardboard boxes, plastic tubs and containers, old keys, and even used paper to play with. Watching a child create a whole new world and experiencing the joy it gives them with objects we consider trash can be rewarding.
Before randomly choosing a toy the next time you visit a toy store, take the time to understand the age appropriateness as well as what skills you would like the child to learn while playing with it. Select toys that you and the child can play with together. This will give you an extra opportunity to bond, while having fun and learning something new together. A happy child will retain information, and naturally develop a positive attitude towards learning.