Research shows that learning through play is an important part of a child’s development. Though ensuring your child has enough play time is a great benefit to families to allow their children to release some extra energy, a child begins to find out who they are through play, even during infancy. Even early in development, a child’s mind is expanding just by looking at their environment and taking in their surroundings.
The use of educational toys can help children learn many different skills they will need in their life. Educational toys can help develop problem solving skills, teach about conflict resolution and how cause and effect work. It also teaches children about sharing, helps develop their fine and gross motor skills and nurtures their creativity and imagination.
Children can start benefiting from educational toys as early as one month old. Here are some great ideas for educational toys based on age range and an explanation of their benefits.
1-12 months old: At an early age, sensory play helps stimulate your child’s senses. As your child continues to grow and develops hand-eye coordination, families can begin introducing toys that encourage more interaction. As your child becomes more active, we suggest introducing problem solving toys. These toys will help children work through conflicts and become familiar with cause and effect such as “If I do this than that will happen”. They will also build up their confidence once they’ve been able to figure out how a toy works after trial and error and guidance. Other great toys to introduce would be ones that promote movement.
Some examples of great toys for your baby’s first year include:
- Infant play
- Small portable toys with lights and sounds
- Stackers or blocks
- Crawl around learning centers
- Light up dance mats with sound
12-24 months old: As your child reaches the one-year mark or older, they will soon become very mobile. Introducing the right toys to them will help to teach balance and coordination and will increase your child’s curiosity with their new-found mobility. As your child begins to learn to walk, you can also incorporate learning numbers by counting their steps which will help them become more familiar with the terms and meaning even if they do not quite understand at this age.
Themed playsets are great educational toys to introduce between the ages of 12-18 months because they will help develop your child’s recognition skills. For example, if you have a theme playset that involves animals, practice what sound each animal makes. This will also help with language development by reinforcing the names of colors and shapes.
Examples of toys that will help your child reach new milestones between 1 and 2 years old include:
- Push cars
- Stride and ride toys
- Themed toys
- Themed books
2+ years: As your children become a bit older and more active, you can also introduce toys that promote more physical play. When showing them how to use certain toys, such as a tricycle, always make sure they are aware of safety concerns such as wearing a helmet and incorporate in the process of using the toy, so they know that if they ride their tricycle, they must have their helmet on as well.
This is also a great age to introduce toys that incorporate cognitive skill building. There are many different toys that can help children practice writing – whether they are drawing or writing their names – and their small motor skills. Games and books can also help your child develop name recognition and emergent literacy skills. These types of toys will show your child a visual version of what they are hearing and vice versa. For example, the repetition of reading a book about a dog and seeing a picture of a dog will allow your child to begin to associate a picture of a dog with the sound a dog makes. Reading books that have color pictures and a few words on each page with your child will begin to familiarize them with how words they hear look on the pages.
Examples of toys that will help promote physical play and cognitive skill building include:
- Basketball hoops
- T-ball stands
- Bowling sets
- Kinetic sand
- Drawing easel
- “See and Say” games or books
- Magnetic building blocks
- Counting toys