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There are so many toys on the market and it can be tempting to want to buy them for our children. They seem so in love with the toy in the store, but often when you get home, they quickly lose interest. So many toys are “one hit wonders” that can only be played with one way. Those types of toys only hold our children’s attention for a short amount of time. They grow out of those toys so quickly and before we know it, they’re in the donate pile.
Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of “one hit wonder” toys in our house. We have a microphone that only plays Frozen songs and Iris is obsessed with it! But for the most part, I try to only buy open ended play toys that spark imagination and creativity, promote development, can be played with multiple ways, and that they will enjoy playing with for years.
Play promotes growth in the four areas of development: Physical, cognitive, social, and emotional.
- Physical development includes fine motor skills (needed for writing later in life), and gross motor skills (needed for walking, climbing stairs, hand-eye coordination, etc).
- Cognitive development is an understanding of our world and how things work. It is needed for learning and thinking, science and math, and language and literacy.
- Social development is how children learn to interact with others. It is needed to learn cooperation, socialization, and problem solving.
- Emotional development is recognizing, expressing, and managing feelings. It is needed for our children to have self confidence, empathy for others, be resilient, happy, etc.
Blocks: Block are great for all developmental areas; physical development, language development, cognitive development, social development, creativity and problem solving. Blocks promote social and emotional growth because they help children learn to take turns, share materials, develop new friendships, become self-reliant, increase attention span, cooperate with others, and develop self-esteem. Playing with blocks also promotes the use of fine and gross motor skills as child grip the blocks with their hands and move their bodies up, down, and around to stack the blocks.
Wooden rainbow toy: The wooden rainbow toy refines children’s hand-eye coordination and motor skills, as well as expands their creative abilities and critical thinking as they use their imagination to play. Stacking, nesting and building stimulates reasoning skills and problem solving skills.
Magnet Tiles: Like blocks, magnet tiles promote developmental in all areas. Children grow socially and emotionally as they work together to build with the magnet tiles. They gain confidence, self-esteem, and problem solving skills as they build bigger and taller than they previously could. They promote fine and gross motor skills with every move they make, and cognitive development because children are exposed to magnetism. Children also touch into their imagination and creative side as they build a castle for their princess dolls or a garage for their trucks.
Scarves: The benefit of scarves grows, changes, and expands as your child does. It benefits their cognitive development as well as their physical development. Babies begin to learn about the world around them through their senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste) and then through movement and exploration. When scarves move, it stimulates the sense of sight as your baby visually tracks the scarves movement. Touch the scarf to your babies skin to stimulate the sense of touch, and play catch or peek-a-boo to improve hand-eye coordination. Playing peek-a-boo also teaches your baby object permanence (understanding that an object still exists even if it’s unseen). As your child begins to grasp for the scarf, they are developing fine motor skills, and as your baby moves the scarf from left to right and passes it from hand to hand, she is learning how to cross the midline of her body which is a pre-reading and pre-writing skill. To help develop a child’s vocabulary, describe what you are with the scarves as you play with them. As children grow older and they begin to move their whole bodies with the scarves, they are developing kinesthetic awareness. And soon they will begin to use their imagination to play with scarves in a million different ways.
Dolls: Dolls are an excellent toy for boys and girls, toddler to school aged kids. Playing with dolls improves motor skills and social skills. Toddlers learn compassion and selflessness by “taking care” of their dolls. Dolls can teach them positive ways to interact socially. Your child’s motor skills are engaged by dressing the doll, moving the doll around, etc., and your child’s speech is improved as they talk to the doll. When playing with dolls, children will begin to use their imagination to play make-believe. As a parent, you can use dolls to roll-play certain social setting with your child that might need some guidance and advice on how to handle. Using the dolls to role-play keeps it fun and less lecture-y, which children respond better to.
Kitchen or Workbench: The dramatic play children do in the kitchen or at a workbench is great for their creativity and imagination. Your child can play alone to gain self confidence and independence, or they can play with others to learn language and communication skills, social skills and teamwork, and problem solving. As your child grasps the kitchen utensils or tools, they are also developing their fine motor skills.Toy animals: As your child plays with toy animals they are promoting social skills, language development, compassion and empathy.
Cars: Cars, big or small, are amazing for a child’s development. Cars help with cognitive development as children learn cause and effect, and the understanding that something can be made of several parts. Ie. A car is the object but within a car, there are several other parts. Cars promote fine motor skills with dexterity and hand-eye, and gross motor when a child climbs in or out of a large car or crawls around to push a small car. Cars they can drive also help them to learn to use both hands at the same time (ex. Steering a car). These movements strengthen a child’s core and coordination. A child’s speech and language is enhanced as you and they talk about cars and the car parts.
Balls: At the baby and toddler age, balls helps children develop grasping skills, eye-hand coordination, tracking, finger muscles, and the ability to cross the midline (move objects from one hand to another). Balls also help with cognitive development as babies and toddlers learn that balls bounce, roll down hills, and are easy to move and difficult to keep still. As children get older ball play can help with developing gross-motor skills, by kicking, throwing, catching, rolling, etc. Social skills are also learned as children play together throwing, rolling, or kicking the ball to one another.
DUPO’s & LEGO’s: Legos benefit all developmental areas (physical, language, cognitive, social, creativity and problem solving), and they are a pre engineering play. Some colleges even have legos set up for their engineer majors to play with and learn from. Playing with legos requires fine and gross motor skills, as well as promote social and emotional growth as children play together, and they help to increase a child’s attention span and build self esteem.
Easel Painting: Painting or coloring at an easel promotes emotional, physical and cognitive growth. While painting, children use hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, learning colors/color mixing, sharing and cooperation (when playing with others), creativity, and independence. Painting can also help children share/express their emotions or feelings.