By Katrina Lezaic
Toys develop a child’s cognitive skills, stimulate the senses and encourage kids to explore the world while many toys introduce important concepts. Construction toys teach geometry, gravity, and balance, while art supplies teach line, colour, and problem-solving.
For Infants (0 to 18 months)
At this age, toys can be used to develop a child’s senses, motor skills, and language skills. Colourful, lightweight and squeezable toys that provide opportunities to explore sizes, shapes, and textures are the most beneficial for babies. Other toys, like shape sorters and puzzles refine hand-eye coordination. Mobiles in high contrasting patterns hung above a baby changing table or crib teach them about how their behaviours affect the environment when they are allowed to manipulate the mobile by hitting it. As a baby grows, books and videos can be introduced in order to encourage language development. Hardcovered books with different textures are the most suitable, as the pages can’t be damaged and the textures keep baby interested.
For Toddlers (18 months to 2 years)
At this age, children are more active and enjoy playing make-believe and imitating the adult world. Investing in toys that are mini child-friendly versions of adult tools used for cleaning, cooking and gardening encourage a child to develop practical skills. They aren’t ready to play with each other yet, but may choose to play alongside each other. Their toys should further develop motor skills and language skills, as well as teach cause and effect. Pegboards, pincers, play sets with people and animals, and ride-on toys promote these skills. To further develop an awareness of words and patterns, books with simple colourful plots expose toddlers to new vocabulary and speech patterns. Music is also beneficial as it allows toddlers to experience different rhythms, patterns and sounds and enhances body awareness.
For Children (3 to 5 years old)
This age groups are avid users of their imagination, so toys that support and encourage creativity are vital. Children of this age also enjoy developing their alphabet and number skills. Construction toys will encourage them to think three-dimensionally; puppets will encourage them to expand their language skills through storytelling; and items such as dolls, dress-up clothes and pretend dishes will encourage them to share and cooperate. Science and math concepts can also be explored using sand and water toys such as funnels, buckets, scoops and boats, which develop an understanding of weight, size and measurement. Music can also be useful for developing a child’s body awareness and self-confidence by introducing rhythms, patterns and healthy ways for self expression.
For Children (6 to 12 years old)
At this age children are influenced by their peers and have a strong gender identity. They are able to think strategically and take in more information through reading. Choose toys that improve their socializing, like board games; toys that improve their problem-solving, like art supplies; and toys that improve their literacy, like age-appropriate works of fiction and nonfiction. Complex construction sets allow school aged children to experiment with how things work together and are an effective tool for developing their creativity and fine motor skills. Fitness materials such as skipping ropes, balls and beanbags help children release tensions, gain self confidence and develop fine and gross motor skills, while having fun and keeping healthy.
Katrina Lezaic is a freelance journalist based in Sydney who currently writes for Yogee Toys. As a mother of two, she especially enjoys writing about family, children and other related topics.