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Age Appropriate Toys for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers
By Paul Coles
Toys play an important role in your child's growing years. They are great learning
tools to encourage imagination, stimulate creativity, develop social-interaction
capabilities and build life skills. Toys of value enhance your child's natural ability
to engage in self expression by allowing your child to explore and discover new things
about the world around him. Thus it is very important for parents to understand the
significance of selecting appropriate learning toys for babies to preschoolers.
With a myriad of toys available in toy stores today, choosing the right toy can be
challenging, if not daunting for most parents and educators.
How to Choose the Right Toys for Children
Basically any kind of toy is good for young children as long as it is safe, well-constructed
and age appropriate – look for toys that suit your child's personality, likes, and
dislikes before you buy. Be mindful of toys your child already have and choose toys
that complement them, and can add richness and fun to the play.
If you buy toys too complicated to understand or too advanced for your child’s age,
chances are your child will quickly become frustrated and overwhelmed. If the toys
are too simple and below your child's level of development, they will become bored
and lose interest. Always pick toys that can hold your child's interest and attention.
Toys should also invite repeated use, it should challenge and intrigue your child,
not frustrate or anger. As a good rule of thumb, you can check manufacturers' age
labeling on toy packages but use your own judgment to gauge your child's ability
to manipulate, maneuver and solve problems.
You can get an idea of the toys your child might like by noticing what toys he gravitates
to on play dates and by asking other parents who have children of similar ages.
In the first few months of life, each day is bursting with new discoveries for your
baby. Babies reach, crawl and explore their surroundings with their eyes, hands and
mouth. Toys that are chewable, visually appealing with bright, contrasting colors
or have interesting sound and textures are designed to stimulate your baby's sensory
development. Toys should be captivating, easy to play and encourage participation.
Babies are eager to touch and hold moving objects. Activity quilts and musical crib
mobiles fascinate them at this age. Most mobiles come with an adjustable height option
that you can adjust so that it is in your baby's visual range. Mobiles are excellent
for developing your baby's attention to specific objects and ability to track objects
Old favorites like stuffed animals and soft dolls should be without button noses
or eyes, brightly colored, lightweight and small enough so he can hold and cuddle.
Other suitable toys for babies include rattles, teething rings, squeaky toys, colorful
pictures, soft blocks and baby swings.
Toddlers in 3 to 5 years old age group are naturally curious and have little sense
of danger. They climb, jump, throw, tumble and play rough. Toddlers can handle more
complex toys because their ability to grasp and manipulate objects is more advanced.
Fit-together toys, push and pull toys, pounding and shaping toys, musical toys are
some toys suitable for toddlers.
This age is a creative stage when imagination develops, so toys that encourage make-believe
play such as toy kitchen sets, medical kit sets, cash registers and play money, telephones,
dolls and dress-up clothes are excellent choices.
Educational toys really take off at preschool age. It is important to note that your
preschooler learn best through play and games, so keep the learning process informal
and as hands-on as possible.
You can start introducing simple board games to your preschooler at this time. A
board game with family or peers will help develop their language, emotion, and social
capabilities through play. Basic board games teach preschoolers about sharing, taking
turns, and expose children to simple concepts like colors and counting.
Art materials help foster a preschooler's creativity and build skills that lead to
reading, writing, and appreciating nature's beauty in life. However, make sure you
buy only non toxic art supplies.
Preschoolers are physically active, have lots of energy and love to run. They begin
to test their physical strength and develop skills such as the ability to ride a
tricycle, finger control and the ability to build with large blocks and construction
materials. Be prepared to pay a bit more and invest in durable, well constructed
outdoor toys that can withstand rough handling.
Children don't usually think about safety when diving into the next new plaything,
it is your responsibility as parents and caregivers to read up and be informed of
toy safety issues.
Shop around for comparisons and make sure the toy is sturdy and will not come apart
easily. Cheap, poorly manufactured toys are no bargain. Flimsy plastic toys that
you find in drugstore dollar stores, thrift stores often have dangerous sharp edges
Check every toy carefully to see that no parts could break loose, and contain no
lead or potentially harmful pieces such as magnets. Toys should also be of safe size
and not present a choking hazard or suffocate. Wash second hands well before giving
to your child and discard plastic wrappings on toys at once.
Toys need not be expensive and elaborate to provide hours of fun. In fact, simple
toys or even homemade toys can provide children an opportunity to inspire imagination
and develop ideas of their own.