How toys help exploration, discovery and development during the pre-school years.
It is best to let every child explore and discover the world around them at their own pace. Yet there are some toys that help at different stages and ages of a child’s growth and development. Toys are designed based on the age-appropriate skill development and abilities.
Toys for infants — Birth through 6 months
Learning through observation! Babies like to observe—following everything with their eyes, especially faces and bright colors. Babies are also fascinated with what their hands and feet can do, and explore with their mouths and follow sounds too.
Good toys for young infants include things they can reach for, hold, suck on, shake, make gentle noise with—rattles, large rings, squeeze toys, teething toys, soft dolls, textured balls, and cloth books. They also listen to books with nursery rhymes and poems and songs.
This helps them develop all the first skills including their motor skills, language skills.
Toys for older infants — 7 to 12 months
Crawling off into the world - Older babies explore more as they begin to move, typically rolling over and sitting, to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. They respond to their own names and other common words, start to identify body parts, find hidden objects, and put things in and out of containers.
Pretend play toys like puppets, wooden toys cars and vehicles with wheels. Stacking toys and shapes like large beads, balls, and nesting toys, large soft blocks and wooden cubes, push and pull toys, and low, soft things to crawl over.
At this stage, they start developing fine motor skills as well as continue with the gross motor skills. Imagination, curiosity and exploration are hallmarks of this time.
Toys for 1+-year-olds
On the go explorers! Typically they walk steadily and even climb steps. They enjoy stories, say their first words, and can play beside other children.
Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects work. Explore creativity with non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, stamps on paper and other surfaces. Cardboard and wood blocks
Pretend play toys increase and they mimic life with toy phones, walkers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, animal toys and wooden vehicles
Building their gross and fine motor skills— puzzles, and large and small balls large pegboards, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, gears).
Toys for 2-year-olds (toddlers)
Toddling off to explore – toddlers learn rapidly and have a slightly heightened sense of danger as compared to 1-year-olds and want to know even more as they explore physically: jumping from heights, climbing, rolling, and rough-and-tumble play…
The toys that work for a one-year-old will also work at two, but you can add on some with smaller and more complex parts as they refine their problem solving skills —wood blocks, puzzles that snap together, objects to sort (by size, shape, colour), and things with gears, buttons, and snaps.
Apart from non-toxic, washable crayons and markers, large paintbrushes and finger-paint, one can add chalkboard and large chalk, and rhythm instruments.
With growing motor skills ride-on equipment, pounding and hammering toys and construction sets, child-sized furniture (kitchen sets, chairs, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys add another dimension.
Toys for 3- to 6-year-olds (pre-schoolers and kindergarteners)
Out in the world Preschoolers and kindergartners typically have good language skills and ask a lot of questions. They like to experiment more as they explore and become competitive! Taking turn and sharing toys is a skill that is learnt at this stage.
More complex puzzles, objects to sort by length, width, height, shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features. Building complex structures, transportation toys, construction sets,
Their creativity gets a boost through modeling clay and playdough, paper and cloth scraps for collage, and instruments—rhythm instruments and keyboards, xylophones etc., picture books with more words and detailed pictures.
Encourage exploration and discovery through tricycles, bicycles, tents, wagons and wheelbarrows, bowling pins, targets and a construction toy like tool chair with hammer.
You know your child’s needs best! Toys are tools for a lifetime of learning and even as kids grow beyond pre-school, there is always a place for toys and playtime in their lives. Let them explore the world with simple toys that are an extension of themselves and encourage out of the box thinking. Like always, be aware of the safety of the child at all time. Happy playtime!