With the festive season fast approaching, shopping for Christmas gifts during a pandemic will surely be challenging. You might be feeling hard-pressed to buy expensive gifts for your little ones. Just remember: the more expensive toy is usually not the best toy.
As parents, we know how important play is for our child’s health and development. Toys can have an important role in play. But how much do we know about the toys our children play with?
Which toy is best?
The best toys are those that engage children socially, support problem-solving skills, and encourage creativity. The tricky part is, often times toys that look engaging to us adults may actually have the opposite effect.
We know from research that the more basic the toy, the more benefit there is to the child. Take wooden blocks, for example. They can be used in so many different ways! Your child can get creative, build and take apart different structures, and explore a variety of play ideas. Playing with blocks is also a great way to develop fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, maths skills and problem solving skills.
Toys for Baby (0-6 months)
What babies love most is to look at your face and babble along with you! But if you are looking for a toy, choose one with bright colours or different textures that baby can explore with their senses. Anything that baby can hold, shake, pass from one hand to another, drop and pick up again will do! Make sure toys are safe for baby to explore with their mouth.
Toys for Older Infant (7-12 months)
As babies grow, they start to roll over, crawl, sit and pull themselves up. Choose toys that support and encourage them in this stage. Ride on toys, push and pull toys are ideal. At this age, babies are also starting to engage with objects: moving things around, finding hidden objects, and putting things in and out of containers.
So try shape sorters, baskets or boxes with items that can be emptied and filled back up.
Toys for Toddlers (1- 3 years)
Toddlers are always on the go, and rapidly learning language! They love stories, so board books and picture books with simpler detail are a good idea. Toddlers also start to take risks. Through climbing and rough and tumble play, they test and develop their physical skills. Try ride on toys, tunnels and climbing materials.
At this stage, children start to develop more control with their hands, and like to play with small objects.
Toys to support this include puzzles, blocks, and shape sorters. Art and craft activities are usually a big hit! So get creative with your toddler and try some finger painting, mark-making, sticking, crayon or chalk activities.
Toys for Preschool Aged Children (3-6 years)
Preschoolers start to stay longer in their play. They are becoming more social, as they play with friends and learn how to share toys and take turns in games. As they continue to experiment physically, children are interested in toys that challenge them or teach them a new physical skill.
Crafting continues to be a favourite at this stage, so keep supporting your child to create masterpieces in their play. Pretend play is especially popular among preschoolers. In pretend play, children get to use their imaginations to learn about themselves and their world, as they experiment with social and emotional roles in life. Toys that promote pretend play include dress up costumes, dolls, kitchens, construction sets and small world toys.
Christmas can be a very challenging time for parents to manage children`s expectations. A good rule of thumb can be to get them something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read!
Most of all, remember that you are your little one's favourite toy. The more toys encourage the whole family to get active, play make-believe and get creative, the better!
This year has been especially tough for everyone. So when Christmas rolls around, slow down, have fun, enjoy each other and see if you can shop local!
This article was contributed by ABC Start Right, a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.