Developmentally appropriate and engaging toys directly impact interaction quality and are instrumental in facilitating early language and cognitive skills. As a parent and pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, I opt for the well-made, classic toy. Classic toys may not come with all the bells and whistles of the latest “learning” toy, but simplicity often leads to more quality interactions. After all, if the toy isn’t doing all the talking, there will be more opportunities for the parent and child to do the talking instead. It is within the context of the parent-child interaction, a positive and responsive learning experience is created. Sometimes simple toys really are best.
Infants and young toddlers learn about the world through their senses. Toys that can be squeezed, dropped, twisted, thrown, touched and put in little mouths are good choices for children this age. When building a toy collection for babies, start with these ten classic toys, and you will already be on the right track to supporting your child’s early language and cognitive development.
Soft, multicolored and textured stacking rings that rattle, crinkle or squeak when touched are perfect for babies, while toddlers will love a larger, more challenging set of stacking rings. A must-have toy that is perfect for facilitating early language, cognitive, and fine motor skills.
Babies love to look at themselves in the mirror. Try an activity mirror with a bright, soft fabric frame for tummy time or a large wall mirror for babies or toddlers who can sit or stand. Guaranteed to mesmerize as your little one discovers his or her own reflection and create multiple opportunities for language development and fun.
Every parent knows books are important but the type of book you choose for babies and young toddlers impacts learning as well. The key is to keep it simple. Lift-the-flap books with bright simple pictures and a single word or few words on each page is the way to go for babies. Read before her morning nap. Set out the books on his blanket during tummy time. Read before bedtime. Start the habit of reading with your baby every day now. It’s one of the most important things you can do to build early language.
The opportunities for sensory exploration and language building abound with this amazingly simple and classic toy. Soft blocks made from fabric, foam, or rubber are easiest for babies to grasp and best for little ones to safely toss and throw. A must-have toy to add to your baby’s toy collection.
A shape sorters is fabulous for fine motor skills and spatial thinking. It also facilitates matching, color, shape & size recognition and vocabulary skills. A simple and soft shape sorter is perfect for babies, or you can try a slightly more complex sorter to keep older toddlers interested.
A classic toy loved by children of all ages. Small textured, sensory balls that are easy to grasp are best for babies to explore while older babies and young toddlers may enjoy large bouncy balls that can be easily kicked. The perfect toy for independent play, playing with a parent, or a group of friends.
Not only is making music fun for babies and toddlers, it’s good for a cognitive development. Research shows that the parts of the brain that process the pitch, rhythm, and phrasing of music and language are connected. Tap into a baby’s natural interest in music and create a bin of safe and fun musical toys easily accessible to your little one. Keep it simple with just a few shakers and bells or expand your baby’s musical toy collection with ribbons and movement scarves for waving, tossing and moving to the music. Get silly, sing and make music with your baby. Guaranteed to get your little one giggling.
Cars, trucks and trains are fabulous for facilitating early play, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and language development. Large, easy-to-grip cars and trucks are the way to go for babies and toddlers. Opportunities for building language abound with this classic toy that will undoubtedly captivate your little one’s attention.
Baby dolls are a perfect first toy for little girls and boys and offer endless opportunities to build language and play skills as your child grows. Your little one will love cuddling with his or her baby doll as you talk about the names of different body parts. A must-have item in every baby’s toy collection.
Investing in several well-made easy-grasp knob puzzles with just a few pieces and matching pictures underneath are good first puzzles for babies, while toddlers may be more challenged by chunky puzzles with a few more pieces. Your child’s level of engagement will tell you if you’ve chosen a puzzle at the right developmental level, so tune in. If she’s interested, you’ve hit the mark.
Safety & Health
Play is a hands-on, multisensory experience. When buying toys for a child under the age of three, choose well-made toys that don’t have small parts. Take a quick look at the label to confirm the toy is painted with non-toxic, lead-free paint or uses nontoxic materials. Choosing toys that are easily cleaned, sturdy, and won’t break when dropped are a good choices for safe play. To learn more about toy safety and sign up to be notified in the event a toy is recalled, visit http://www.safekids.org and http://www.cpsc.gov for more information.
Connect & Learn More
Building Blocks Speech Langauge & Literacy is dedicated to empowering parents and professionals to help children build strong early communication skills. We offer individual and group therapy services for children and their families, as well as resources on building early language and literacy skills on our blog, Babble On. Take a moment to sign up and we’ll send you an e-mail notification when new information is posted so you can stay up-to-date. You can also stay connected with Building Blocks by liking us on Facebook, or following us on Twitter, and Pinterest. Free resources to help your child learn and grow. What could be better than that?