Playing to learn

By ParentsCanada staff on September 09, 2013
Playing is what kids do best, and it’s a good thing, too, considering play is instrumental in your child’s development. So this year, as you start your holiday shopping, keep that in mind. Toys should be fun, but also contribute to intellectual, sensory and behavioural growth.


0 to 6 months

Does a baby really need toys?
Yes! Look for items that entertain the eyes, ears and hands.
  • Go with simplicity. Babies don’t need complicated toys that will be frustrating. Look for simple items.
  • Get colourful. Newborns enjoy colours, especially ones that have high contrast.
  • Add music. Music is soothing, especially for the youngest of kids. Search out items with fun playtime music, as well as calming bedtime tunes.
  • Offer hand-helds. Grasping items is an early motor skill that needs nurturing. Have plenty of teething rings, cloth books and rattles to play with. 
 


6 to 12 months

Watch out! Your baby is going to be on the move. Look for toys that encourage activity.
  • Appeal to touch. Little ones love different textures and shapes. Invest in crinkle books, rattles and toys with buttons to push.
  • Get active. Toys that encourage rolling, crawling and (yikes!) walking are a great idea.
  • Build it up. To develop fine motor skills, find items that are stackable, like blocks, nesting cups and stacking rings.
  • Wheel around. For some reason, kids love wheels. Provide cars, trucks and pull-toys. It gets kids active and starts to spark imagination. Note: avoid mini-cars. They are too small for this age. 



12 to 18 months

It’s all about the rewards. At this age, kids love cause and effect items. Look for toys that provide a goal.
  • Sort it out. Shape sorting toys are always a big hit. Look for puzzle-style shape sorters, or toys that ask children to identify shapes and push correct buttons.
  • Be safe. With more independent play comes the need to be extra careful with toys. Make sure there are no small pieces or sharp edges. Keep an eye on your toy box for broken toys.
  • Get wet. Water is really entertaining for little ones. Simply washing their hands can be a source of excitement. Build on this by offering fun bath toys that squirt, pour, float and sink. 
 


18 to 24 months

Let’s pretend. Your child’s imagination kicks into high gear at this age. Look for toys that encourage the creative mind.
  • Dress up. Hats, shoes and funny dress-up clothing are simple, but entertaining “toys”. As parents, you’ll have to wear many silly clothes during this time.
  • Act it out. Dolls, stuffed animals and other action figures are the perfect way to play makebelieve. Play kitchens, toolboxes and houses can also build a creative imagination.
  • Begin with ABCs. Yes, your child might be a little young to start reading, but toys that show the alphabet can give them a head start when it comes to letter recognition. It can’t hurt!
  • Be puzzling. Help out those problem-solving skills with large, simple puzzles. Be patient and let your toddler work at it. Offer help if frustration sets in. 
 
 

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