First and foremost, when selecting toys for your children, make sure they are child-safe. Check to see if they have been manufactured with non-toxic materials, have no sharp or jagged edges, or contain objects that are so small that the child may possibly choke on them if swallowed. (Children as old as 3, and sometimes even 4, still occasionally will put objects in their mouth). Ideally, the toy is made with a “child-safe seal of approval” and constructed of natural wood, since plastic products usually don’t last as long.
Toys also need to be developmentally appropriate, so that they challenge the child’s intellect, without being too difficult or too easy. (When a child loses interest quickly, plays with the toy poorly, or destroys it, it usually means that it is not serving a need in the child, and is therefore not age- appropriate.)
Toys that encourage physical play, like running, jumping, climbing, and throwing a ball, help the child develop an awareness of his body (balance, strength, coordination), as well as self confidence.
Creativity and Self-Expression in Imaginative Play
Young children are masters of make-believe. They love to role play and create imaginary situations. Toys that allow the child the opportunity for this type of self- expression through imaginative play, aid important social and emotional development, as well as intellectual and problem-solving skills, both which are necessary for future school success.
Self-Expression, Fine Motor Development, and Concentration in Art
Just as with imaginative play, experiences using art tools also provide the child with various opportunities for self-expression, in addition to aiding fine motor (hand) control, eye-hand coordination, and the development of concentration.
Language Development and Self-Expression with Music
In addition to aiding self-expression, musical toys such as instruments and CD’s are all wonderful tools to assist both the child’s receptive (listening) and expressive language development, which are essential readiness skills for oral language, writing and reading.
Social Skills and Readiness Skills with Board Games
Choosing age appropriate board games for your child will allow him/her to develop important skills such as taking turns, learning how to follow directions, “how to be a good leader” and “how to become a friend” all through cooperative play.
Visual Discrimination and Brain Development with Building toys and puzzles
Toys such as blocks and puzzles help bridge the world between pretend play and reality for the child. By providing experiences in spatial awareness, seeing differences in size, shape and color, and engaging the hand and body in purposeful activity, the child is able to move from the concrete to the more abstract, thus aiding brain development.
Language Development and Books
Current research in early childhood development continues to validate the importance and influence of quality, age-appropriate books for young children. The significant positive impact that it has on language development is especially apparent with early reading skills, and the development for a true love of learning. In addition, when the child has the opportunity to sit quietly and listen to a story with a parent, skills such as attention and concentration are being reinforced, which then eventually carry over into a more academic setting-the child’s school.
For a list of suggested toys, click here.