About Toddler Developmental Toys
Toddlers are past the infant stimulation stages and have acquired many physical and mental skills during the first year. During the first three years of a child’s life, the brain triples in weight and establishes many nerve connections, and, as a toddler is exploring his or her world, he or she absorbs a lot of new information in a short period of time by encountering new and unfamiliar things. As a result, many toys geared toward a toddler are about acquiring even more skills and are designed to be colorful, bright, and loud and have many textures, shapes, and sizes. At this stage, children are curious and are interested in toys and activities that are tactile and mobile, including emptying or taking apart things and active play involving jumping, climbing, and throwing. Aside from the senses, toddler toys are designed to stimulate these traits of curiosity – think of the many shape shifter and filling and dumping games for toddlers – and also to enforce hand-eye coordination.
Aside from the physical skills that toddler toys are geared toward, many toys are designed to develop mental and social skills. The most obvious mental skill gained for a toddler toy is differentiation and classification. As a toddler picks up and learns new colors and shapes, toys such as building blocks, stuffed animals, play gyms, different colored rubber balls, and any toy with a number of different colors and textures are used to develop these skills further. Aside from observing obvious shape and color differentiations, the goal for these types of toys is to expand a toddler’s sensory perception of the world.
Similar to differentiation and classification skills is logic and reasoning, and the toys for both sets of skills are similar, as well. Toddler toys geared specifically toward developing logic and reasoning skills include puzzles, mixing and matching games, play cards, and mind games. Association games are also more complex than those played during infancy.
Emotional intelligence and imagination is gained by other groups of toys, particularly musical toys. While “musical” toys for infants often mean a toy squeaks or plays a lullaby, musical toddler toys play more complex melodies, harmonies, and rhythm found in classical music by Mozart and J.S. Bach. Although exposure to classical music is said to make a child more intelligent, musical toys are another mental stimulation toy to help a toddler with balance and harmony.
A toddler’s memory and concentration are also developed by play with certain toys, particularly traditional toys. Many traditional toys require a toddler to sit, think, and manipulate a toy, especially if the toy doesn’t have one purpose alone. Traditional toys that allow for this type of manipulation include trucks and toy cars – not the electric kind, though – and dolls with clothes that involve using buttons, snaps, and zippers. At this stage, although trucks are considered boys toys and dolls for girls, both genders benefit from the creative play and concentration.
Language and beginning social skills are gained through many toddler toys and play with an adult. When playing with a parent, whether cooing games for young toddlers or story telling for a toddler about to start preschool, the act of play encourages a child to communicate. But certain games also involve rules and playing with another person, whether a parent or a peer, introduces beginning social skills, such as following instructions, cooperation, negotiation, and taking turns.
In addition to toddler toys with a specific developmental purpose, another popular toy for toddlers is a ride on toy for indoor or outdoor play. As a toddler has discovered how to be more mobile, he or she will want to do many activities that encourage these new physical skills, and a ride on toy or tricycle will allow him or her to move and play outside. When choosing a ride on toy or tricycle, make sure the toy isn’t too large or too small for your child, although some models have adjustments as a toddler grows taller over two years. If the toy has pedals, your child should be able to access them easily from the toy’s seat and, if the toy requires steering, make sure your child is prepared for it. Also, although toys made of harder material are appropriate for a toddler, make sure that the ride on toy doesn’t have any sharp points or edges. Safety, however, is important for all riding toys and tricycles and is similar to safety precautions for an adult bicycle: Use a helmet and elbow and knee pads; a tricycle should have a flag on the back in case of motorists. Although ride on toys can be used indoors and outside, they shouldn’t be used near a pool, steps, hills, roadways, or inclines.
The purpose of play is essentially to have fun, but a toddler can still have fun while learning new and important skills. While many smaller indoor toys teach new mental and social skills, outdoor toys, such as ride on toys, are geared toward a toddler’s new physical curiosity. As with infants, toddlers should have a variety of toys, from musical toys to traditional toys like building blocks, to develop and enforce a variety of skills.