Ask any busy mum why toys are important for her children and she will gladly tell you that they can keep their little ones occupied and ‘out of their hair’ for a bit. Although that is, indeed, a very good reason to buy toys that entertain your child, this isn’t what you should focus on when buying items for a child. Yes, it does keep your hair from going grey prematurely, but there are many lessons to be learned with the right choice of toys. The most important aspect of buying toys for infants and children should be a consideration for how that toy can foster growth and learning.
Toys we choose in the early development years are crucial to his or her development of language skills, motor (physical) skills, cognitive thinking, sense of safety (emotional well-being) and social skills. Before buying any toy simply because it is trendy take a few moments to consider the impact it will have on your child’s development. Keep these 5 reasons why toys and playtime are important for your child in mind and you will have no problems choosing the right toys.
Developing Your Child’s Language Skills
Did you know that when you are cooing and making silly sounds at an infant they are learning basic communication? All those little gurgles you begin to hear are your child’s attempt to communicate something to you. It may be pleasure, dismay, excitement or any number of emotions they are trying to express. In the very beginning, singing to your child not only soothes him or her but also teaches words. Recordings of children’s songs are perfect for those times when you cannot hold your baby as you would like to and story books read to your child, even as an infant, are a vital part of teaching language skills.
Learning Gross and Fine Motor Skills
Some playthings are actually going to teach your child both fine and gross motor skills at the same time. Take for example a rattle or a dummy. As they learn to grasp that object in their tiny hand they are at the very beginning stages of learning fine motor skills. However, getting it to their mouth is the very first step in gross motor skills.
Mobiles hanging above a crib are an ideal way to encourage motor skills as it will delight your child, attract his or her attention and soon your baby will be reaching up for that lovely musical ‘thing’ that is hanging just out of reach.
The Wonder of Cause and Effect – Cognitive Thinking
Although a child begins learning cause and effect with such things as rattles (if I shake it, this thing makes noise!) that is only the very beginning of cognitive thinking. If I cry mommy comes; if I laugh mommy laughs and so forth down the line. But there are a great number of other toys and games which teach cause and effect, also known as the art of cognitive thinking. Puzzles, for instance, are wonderful because children learn to ‘fit the pieces together.’ Isn’t that what life is all about? Learning to put things in proper perspective? At this point in a child’s development mums and dads will want to work with colors, numbers, shapes and sizes as well. Building blocks and stacking rings are ideal for working with all three; colors, sizes and shapes.
Developing a Sense of Safety
Actually, helping your child develop a sense of safety, a sense of well-being, can be accomplished any time you play with your child. It is so very important to take time out of each and every day, no matter how busy you are, to spend moments alone with your child. This is easy when your girl or boy is an infant because you need to nurse or feed your baby, but as the child grows and becomes more active, many parents are so caught up in everyday life that they simply have trouble finding time to spend with toddlers. Read books to your child at night or work puzzles with them in the day. Any toy or game which you can play with your child teaches them that mum and dad are there for them, that you value them and that they are living in a safe environment.
Using Toys to Develop Social Skills
This is perhaps the most trying aspect of raising a child. How many times a day have you heard yourself saying “Play nice!” or “Share!” or “Don’t bite!” Any toy you buy your child which can be shared fosters the development of social skills. It may be difficult for parents with only one child to teach socialization and this is where going to the park or playground a few times a week can be a great benefit. Don’t forget to bring along your little boy’s favorite car or your little girl’s most cherished doll. Learning to share and get along with others is one of the most critical life lessons you will want to encourage. No one lives in isolation, so it is imperative that children learn from the earliest ages to get along with others. We are, after all, social creatures by nature.