A Mind for the Future: Choosing the Best Toys for Child*
Development Children’s toys are not just for fun and games. Many parents know that selecting the right toys for kids means finding things that encourage them to develop and nurture newly discovered skills while also having loads of fun. The critical stages of development in a child’s life are more often than not enhanced by toys but it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed by choice at the toy store. Here are some important things to consider when selecting toys for young ones:
No problem child
When considering how to get the most from a new purchase, it’s always good to choose toys that can potentially be used in many different ways and have limited boundaries. Young children love to smash and knock things over, but then repairing the damage can help them to develop problem-solving skills. Simple old-fashioned interlocking blocks or cups are handy starting points for kids to begin thinking about problem-solving and will engage children well into the future. Another way to spark a child’s problem-solving development is to stick to simple puzzles, which also help develop good hand-eye coordination. There are many innovative contemporary designs on the market for fun and functional toys, so parents have plenty of good options.
Letting the imagination run free
As children grow up, you as a parent have more scope to indulge their imaginations through play. Toys that help a child to build their imagination also increase interaction because they encourage collaboration and conversation. Plush toys and dolls may seem old-fashioned but they remain a tried-and-tested favourite among children. Inanimate dolls and stuffed toys allow children to create an entire imaginary world as they feed, talk to and tuck in these toys as they would a living thing. Puppets can also be used in a similar capacity as they feature moving parts which can offer even more dynamic and involved imaginary experiences.
|Image by Søren Rajczyk, used under Creative Commons licence.|
Snuffing out gender bias
It’s important not to pigeonhole young children by only providing ‘gender appropriate’ toys. Don’t restrict young boys to toy vehicles, or young girls to Barbies. Take some time to see what toys your children respond to most and work with those. Many children will be curious or more engaged with a toy that’s completely new to them or different from their other toys, so it’s important to introduce variety (for both boys and girls) and see what each child responds to. Learning to accept, adapt and play with a wide variety of toys will stop children from developing rigid ideas of what they can or should be playing with or how they should be acting. A good variety of toys can lead to a well-adjusted and open-minded child.
At the end of the day, many children’s toys feature bells and whistles of the digital variety but keeping things simple is often more productive (this goes for you too! Don’t be too distracted by your own digital devices at playtime). Avoid toys with lots of buttons and flashing lights as children will concentrate on pushing these instead of using their imaginations. Look for toys that are flexible, dynamic and not too rigid in their usage instead, and then watch your child turn into someone you can truly be proud of.