Picking Out a Baby Toy
Picking out new toys for a child from birth to five years can be a difficult or daunting task, as each store has many products to choose from and you would like to find toys that are meaningful toward a child’s early development without being overly stimulating or stunting. Baby toys, as a rule, should be both entertaining and educational, as “play” is supposed to a time to engender development in problem-solving skills, motor skills, social skills, and learning. Additional positive aspects of play and baby toys are learning creativity and leadership skills.
But a new baby toy, whether purposely educational or otherwise, shouldn’t be just for the purpose of developing quicker. Certain baby toys in play are designed for neurological reasons, whether it’s for early stimulation of the five senses or learning basic social cues as a preschooler, and all are geared to learning predictable response to function. From a fully neurological standpoint, effective baby toys, for all levels of development, are designed to have “play” form the right connections and paths between brain cells, and connect and form certain paths in the correct developmental sequence. As a result, whether for an infant or a preschool-age child, multiple toys are needed for multiple developmental skills. But, when choosing educational or developmental toys, the toy itself shouldn’t be too difficult or complex for a child to play with, as, at this point, the toy will have no value toward the child’s development.
Regardless for which age a toy is designed, educational baby toys are geared toward developing certain skill sets for the mind and body of a child. Toys that encourage physical skills, be it a rattle for a baby or a ride-on toy for a toddler, are designed to develop skills like dexterity, reaching, grasping, crawling, running, climbing, balance, and holding and handling small toys. Cognitive skills gained through educational baby toys include cause and effect, reasoning, problem solving, memory skills, and attention span. Language skills – which may seem more apparent in preschool creative games, such as when a girls might play with dolls, or when both girls and boys play make-believe games – actually start from infancy, with “cooing” games a parent can play with his or her child, but later language skills developed through play include telling stories and jokes through creative and make-believe play and basic social skills, including cooperating, negotiating, taking turns, and learning rules. In addition, play also encourages strong emotional development for a boy or a girl, including dealing with fears, wishes, and bad experiences, as well as awareness of the environment and surroundings. Whether a child is playing with a parent or with other children, play time encourages feelings of success and safety and reinforces social bonds.
But certain toys are more appropriate for children of a certain age. In infancy, toys for a baby boy or girl are the same, with black and white or primary colors used for visual stimulation. But, aside from visual stimulation, toys for infants, which includes from birth to one year, are all meant to stimulate the five senses and such toys include mobiles and safety mirrors, rattles, stacking toys, pop-up toys, picture books, musical toys, squeeze toys, baby swings, and teething toys. As soon as a baby gradually becomes a toddler, he or she is managing to move around and, as a result, baby toys for children from one to three years are focuses on problem solving and manipulating. Typical development toys for this age group include push-pull or ride-on toys, rocking toys, small tricycles, puzzles, shape sorters, peg boards, movement games, large threading beads, blocks, stacking rings, picture and coloring books, crayons, markers, and clay. Musical toys are still appropriate but involve more complex sounds.
Baby toys, or more appropriately preschool toys, appear different for a boy or a girl, with dolls and tea sets geared toward girls and tool set kits geared toward boys, but all types of toys, regardless of gender, are designed to teach and encourage necessary developmental skills for this age group. Interactive toys, although introduced to toddlers, are used to teach social play and more complex social skills. Such interactive toys include dress-ups, puppets, bead and lacing sets, story books, board games, and puzzles with no more than 24 pieces.
For all ages, safety with any baby toy is always a concern and, as a rule, baby toys should be checked for small, removable parts, especially for children three years and younger. If a toy part can fit inside a 35mm film container, the part is too small. Similarly, for baby toys, the toy shouldn’t have any sharp edges or points and, if a toy has any additional parts, make sure all parts fit securely. Other notable safety precautions include no small balls or marbles and, for soft toys, make sure the fabric or doll hair isn’t fluffy enough to be torn out and chewed by a child. With tricycles and ride-on toys, make sure your child wears appropriate safety gear. In addition, toys should be checked regularly for signs of wear and tear.
As both developmental value and safety of a baby toy are important, many toys are available that are both safe and will enhance your child’s development. When choosing a toy, have these aspects in mind and, most importantly, choose a toy that your child will enjoy and is age appropriate.