Children learn about the world through toys. Different toys fulfill different developmental and educational purposes, and understanding this variety and the needs of your child will help you in selecting the most appropriate toys for your child.
Here are some significant needs of children that can be fulfilled by the right kind of toys:
o Creative development: Lewis Carroll’s Alice captured the essence of childhood with her eager phrase: “Let’s pretend…” Watch how many things your child can do with an empty cardboard box. Other examples: Clay, paint, dolls, crayons, play dough.
o Intellectual development: Just pulling a simple wagon, your child is learning about the relationship between force and velocity. Other examples are books, miniature ovens, bicycles and science kits.
o Physical development: Through toys and games, children develop their strength, motor skills, hand-eye coordination and muscle control. Toys for this are balls, bikes, blocks, shovels, and all outdoor games.
o Sensory development: Children learn about textures, smells, colors and sounds through toys. The toys for this are musical instruments, clay, blocks, puzzles.
o Social development: Through toys, children learn about each other and about friendship. They learn how to get along with others, and the mechanics of personal relationships. What happens when your child builds a sandcastle together with a friend? What happens when your child refuses to share a toy? Board games, dolls and puzzles are some toys that can help your child’s social development.
o Personality development: Games and toys build confidence and self-esteem in children, and help them learn about themselves through their likes and dislikes. Solving a puzzle, building a house with blocks, riding a bike — all these exercises help your child feel a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
The best toys for your child are the ones that provide an enriching learning experience in a fun way and are helpful in the development of basic skills of your child. It is important that you think deeply before buying a toy for your child and evaluate what learning experience your child will have while playing with that toy.
With time, your child will learn how to take responsibility for her choices, actions, and belongings. The following are some guidelines with which you can help your child become responsible without compromising on her safety:
o Talk to your child about proper care and storage of toys. Fix a place of storage and do not allow toys to be left on the floor or outside the house.
o If there is more than one child, separate their toys to make sure that the younger ones may not play with toys appropriate for older children. Explain this, and related safety hazards, to the older children.
o Participate in your child’s play and set good examples of safe play. After playtime, show them how to put the toys away safely, and slowly allow your child to take responsibility for the toys.
o Teach your child to recognize unsafe toys and safety hazards. Check their toys (especially electric ones) regularly for damage, and urge them to let you know if a toy breaks or seems unsafe.
Appropriate and Allowable Toys for Children
In this chapter, we will discuss the skills and needs of children at different ages, and accordingly choose safe and appropriate toys for each age group.
o 3 to 4 years
During this time, children use their imagination to imitate adult activity, and participate actively in physical games. Their knowledge of safety hazards and self-defense also increases.
Appropriate toys: Puppets, farm and community play sets like tea sets, climbing structures, miniature ovens, toy telephones, simple board games, tricycles, boxes, dolls and stuffed animals, water play toys, puzzles, balls, simple musical instruments etc.
o 4 to 6 years
At this age, children learn about social skills and cooperation by participating in preschool group games. Their physical coordination develops, and the foundation of printing and writing is also laid at this time.
Appropriate toys: Transportation vehicles of all types like
bicycles with helmets and training wheels toys, drop boxes, sleds, creative materials, painting material, books and records, stencils, puzzles, balls, action figures, dress-up clothes, housekeeping props,
dollhouses, character toys, simple construction toys etc.
o 6 to 9 years
Children learn about getting along with others, and about the adult world of sports, games, and careers. At this stage, children develop their intellectual and social interests and make strong friendships, likes and dislikes.
Appropriate toys: Board games, marbles, jacks, puppets, doll equipment and accessories, craft kits, construction toys, complex puzzles, jump ropes, art material of all kinds, roller and ice skates etc.
o 9 to 12 years
Preteens become active in team play and learn how to handle detailed projects in arts and science. They learn to prioritize their interests and give more time to select hobbies. They also begin to operate video games and computers.
Appropriate toys: Skates, skateboards, science kits, craft kids, tested and approved electric toys, electric trains (UL approved), construction sets, science kits, craft kits, costumes, larger bicycles prop boxes, puppets, fashion and career dolls, doll house and furniture, musical instruments, books of specific interest, work bench with real tools etc.
It is important to remember that children are different and have individual characteristics and interests. Only you can know your child’s specific interests and abilities at the different stages of their development, by supervising and participating in their play.