Flashing lights, neon plastic, high-pitched voices, soothing lullabies and “press here” stickers all call out to each and every one of us as we walk through the aisles of our local toy store. Yet, we never really know if the toy we are buying is “the one” for our child. While we do the best to try to find something that will entertain them, teach them and keep them occupied we never really know for sure if the toy in question will make it to the top or the bottom of the toy chest. Hopefully, by looking at toys from a developmental perspective we can make good choices when searching through those Fisher-Price clad shelves.
- Hide Me Tent and Tunnel: This toy is a developmental double whammy! Think about all of the gross motor skills and cognitive awareness that can be sparked from this tunnel/fun house combo. When I think about imaginative play I would rather let my little one lead the way with the least amount of props possible — toddlers should use exploration to the max, put away those dress up duds for when your little one turns two or more. Also, you may not know this but there is science based evidence linking imaginative play with successful reading comprehension. Next time you think about skipping over encouraging your little guy pretending to be a pirate or your little princess trying to convince you she in fact is a real princess think about those SAT reading comps! Let’s just say this toy allows tykes to create their own fairytales and adventures within these vibrant tent/tunnel breathable walls. Another added bonus is you won’t break a sweat putting it together!
- Feelings Flashcards: These cards by Todd Parr are one of my all time favorite social-emotional toys on the market. Whether your child is neurotypically developing or delayed these cards are appropriate for all stages of development. Plus, a lot of cognitive development is going on when using these as Parr purposely put opposite emotions on different sides of the cards teaching your kids about antonyms before they even know the definition of the word! Feeling like flashcards are mundane and archaic? Make them into a game by labeling different pictures, places, and things around your house with appropriate emotions or act out the different feelings — In no time your boo boo will be cracking up from your amateur acting skills if nothing else
- Peanut Ball (22 inch): I don’t know about you but my little guy is one heck of a sensory seeker – he likes to touch and feel anything including dirty, disease infested pigeons (shudder). When I need him to stop trying to open every child safety locked cabinet in my apartment I break out the Peanut Ball from the closet and let him literally shake all of his sillies out. Not only does it provide him with endless fun but he gets out all of that kinesthetic energy that would have been spent on unrolling every toilet paper roll he could get his little hands on. Also, he is strengthening his core at the same time helping him sophisticate his balancing skills – maybe he will be the next Mikhail Baryshnikov (pre-Sex and the City)?
- Dress up Friends: Holy fine motor and adaptive skills! This collection of ADORABLE dollies encourages you to snap, crackle and pop! I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have seen a child learn how to tie his/her own shoes from practicing on a Dress Up Friend! What’s better than teaching your kiddie how to dress while using and exercising the smallest muscles in their hands and fingers? These “friends” come in various genders and themes making it almost impossible not to find one that appeals to your little one.
- Fisher Price Growing Baby Elephant Shape Sorter: Sorting is a cognitive and motor skill that may seem pretty innate to mamas and papas but is in fact a learned craft. The reason I like the fisher price brand sorters is that they have so many different levels of sorting – the Elephant Shape Sorter gives you only four options to sort making it the best one to invest in first for your babe. Gave the toy to your tyke and he/she can’t figure it out? Don’t panic! Give them fewer options by covering all of the shapes that they are not looking for with your hands until they plug the shape into the only option. After doing this numerous times your kiddie will get the hang of it and will be sorting colors, shapes, and high-heel heights before you know it! Also – it’s always a good thing for your little one to be sorting at a preschool open house/interview, just an FYI.
So before you click that Amazon.com cart with all of these great new toys for your playroom remember to not get caught up in the clutter/mess that comes with them! Author Barabra Brooke said it best, “Toys have taken over my family room. I watch Mary Poppins, and no matter how many spoonfuls of sugar I eat, action figures won’t march into a bin with the snap of my fingers.” Happy playing!!