With Dexter’s 2nd birthday speedily approaching I’ve had to start thinking about his current toy situation.
Family and friends are already asking if there is anything, in particular, he would like for his birthday and in all honesty, the amount of toys he already has is overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not spoilt, most of the toys he has are well thought out and are good for his development but being our first child, a lot of it has been bought for him or given to us, most of which he doesn’t even play with. So, I’ve been thinking about what he really needs, what he has and what I think is just taking up space in the toy chest. By doing so I have compiled a list of what I think are the top 10 toys for toddler development. Not just for playing with but to help them learn and grow.
We all know that there are many benefits to reading with your child from the bonding time that it gives you, to the development of speech and communication skills. Books widen your child’s vocabulary by exposing them to words that they wouldn’t normally hear in day to day conversation. Simple rhymes, textures and flaps to lift make them exciting. Books are also a way of preparing your child for upcoming events or changes for example potty training or starting school. They can teach your child so much about the world around them which is why they are top of my list.
These are perfect for allowing children to develop their imagination. They are unlimited in what they can build with them and how they can be used. Aside from building strength in little muscles and improving hand-eye coordination, they lay the foundations for skills in maths and physics with counting, sorting and experimenting with balance, weight and gravity. Simple blocks are fantastic but I would also include things like sandcastles, play dough, train tracks and other things that need building or connecting. Even cardboard boxes and tubes from your recycling pile have great benefits.
Puzzles and shape sorters.
Puzzles come in a wide range of designs from simple large pieced peg puzzles to the more tricky alphabet and number pieces, also giant floor puzzles all covered in different themes such transport, animals, colours, shapes etc. There is a clear goal in that all of the pieces need to go in their respective places and in achieving this goal or solving this problem, your child can build both confidence and self-esteem. Shapes and colours feature heavily in many puzzles and just by speaking the name of each piece as your child places it correctly will begin to teach them recognition. Working with others to complete the puzzle will certainly bring on social skills and communication.
Possibly one of my favourite categories. From the early stages of mark making with a piece of paper and a crayon, children are already forming basic shapes and control that goes into learning to write. Moving on to exploring other open-ended media they learn to interpret what they see or think or feel. Cutting and glueing, painting and drawing, building, sculpting etc are all opportunities that allow them to explore and create with limitless possibilities.
Children learn best by copying and imitating, often from just days old when you pull faces at them. As toddlers they become aware of a lot more so you may start to find they do things like ssshh their teddies as if they were crying or pretend to eat or drink out of something like a stacking cup. Toys that aid this sort of personality development are things like toy kitchens, vacuums, dress up clothes, toy DIY kits such as drills and screwdrivers etc. Playhouses are fantastic if you have room. They love to copy and learn so much by doing so.
Balls are great for physical development. Throwing, catching, kicking are all skills that use major muscles and will build on strength and dexterity. Just simply trying to throw them into a bucket or laundry basket will become a good game that your child will become better at each time by building on balance, movement and reaction speed. Having a collection of different sizes, textures colours etc will make great conversation points too.
Repetition of songs encourages the use of words and memorisation. Silly songs make them laugh. Let them reproduce rhythms by clapping or tapping and shaking objects like bells, shakers, tambourines, rain sticks, drums, cymbals, or xylophones. Try playing follow the leader and marching around doing different things with the instruments or using them in story time to create different sounds for characters and scenes to enhance their imagination.
Beads are very versatile not only can they be used in the obvious way of threading them and teaching hand-eye coordination, they can be used to encourage colour recognition, grouping of colours, finding the odd one out, pattern development, early math skills such as counting, adding and subtracting and also visual memory aids by making a pattern and changing it slightly.
Ride on toys
These are perfect for physical development. They improve mobility and balance, get your children outside and encourage exercise whilst also teaching cooperation when sharing and taking turns. They are fantastic for building muscle strength and offer a wide range of pretend play opportunities. They are not just limited to trikes and sit on cars but also include rocking horses, pedal toys, scooters, sledges and wagons too.
Pretend play is vital to the development of imaginative skills. By experimenting with role play, toddlers make sense of things they observe. Imaginative play can include toys such as shop cash registers, dressing up clothes, doctors kits, small character sets and so on, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on toys to encourage them. Cardboard boxes can be fashioned into almost anything from a dolls bed to a rocket. It’s important to play along with them if they invite you to, for example, if they bring you a pretend plate of food, pretend with them and cut it up before you eat it or ask them for some sauce.
What are your child’s favourite toys? Did they make the list or have I missed something? What else have you found has really helped your toddler development in a certain area? I’d love to hear from you so please feel free to leave me a message.