So your baby is one and you are wondering what toys you need to get going forward. Toys are not just something that keep babies engaged by fluke. They have to be age appropriate for various reasons. While this may seem like common sense it helps to have some direction to choose appropriate toys.
Why do toys need to be age appropriate?
Ability to absorb skills differs between different ages. For instance, children at age one can hand you a book to read but are not ready to learn reading themselves yet. Getting them toys that can enhance their development will enable them to learn faster and absorb quicker.
Safety concerns: Small parts may not be safe for toddlers for instance. They tend to mouth everything and choking hazards should be kept away from them.
Ability to handle toys: Large, oversize toys may appear very cute, but can a toddler handle them? Physically handling a toy may not even be the top concern here. At age one kids tend to show fear and an oversize toy may seem overwhelming to them.
Baby proofing: Ever watched a toddler play? They are likely to explore the toy by banging it or shaking it as much as they are likely to play with it as it is to be played with. A car is as likely to be rolled as it is thrown. It is essential then to get baby proof toys that are sturdy, made from durable materials and that do not fall apart at the first sign of baby exploration.
Not just toys: As they grow babies are actually readying themselves for the real world. So they will look around and see how the rest of the adult world behaves. It is no coincidence that many babies love to play with pots and pans. Baby see, baby do being the case at age one, they will enjoy toys that are imitations of the real thing, but age and baby appropriate.
If you are wondering what most babies do at age one...
Social and Emotional: Your child is growing at an explosive pace especially in the social and emotional development arena. At age one, they are more exposed to the world than ever before. Often this is the time that parents start to get back to work again and this has additional exposure to other care givers. You can expect some of the following at age one-
Act shy or nervous with strangers
Cry when mom or dad leaves
Distinguishes favourite things and people
Shows fear on occasion
Hands you a book when they want you to read a story
Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
Holds out arms or legs while dressing
Plays “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”
Language/Communication: The exposure a one year old gets is tremendous and so it is also the beginning of when they try to express themselves in the way that those around them do. They are also developing their own sense of individuality which means they have to express themselves to others to make themselves understood. This is what you can expect-
Responds to simple requests
Shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye” with gestures
Makes sounds that are closer to speech.
Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”
Tries imitating words you say
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving) : The baby brain is attempting to cope with all the exposure they get at this age. They try and make sense of the world around them in ways that they can by exploring and imitation. You can see some of the behaviour here-
Explores and examines things in different ways, like shaking, banging, flinging,
Finds simply hidden things without difficulty.
Identifies images of items named
Starts to use everyday things correctly; for example, eats from a bowl, brushes hair
Claps or bangs two things together
Puts things into and takes things out of a container
Releases things go without help
Pokes with index (pointer) finger
Follows simple directions like “pick up the doll”
Movement/Physical Development: They are progressively getting more mobile. Sitting up with ease so that they can hold and examine everyday items and toys for long, crawling easily and fast enough to reach from one point to another, standing up and even small steps to start with give them a degree of independence like never before to explore what seems like a limitless world.
Gets to a sitting position without help
Pulls up self to stand, walks holding on to furniture
May take a few steps without holding on
May stand alone
What you can do to encourage development:
Read to your toddler whenever possible. Toddlers are slowly realizing that there is a world beyond their everyday routine and will enjoy listening to stories. They also enjoy flipping through books and colourful images on the pages.
Play games to find objects for you or name body parts and objects. They are dexterous enough to put simple puzzles and play matching games with simple images on large, easy to handle shapes. They are curious and happy to explore the different shapes and will enjoy building puzzles with you. Toddlers enjoy exploring the spaces around them and hiding puzzle pieces in easy to find spots adds an extra dimension to such games.
Play matching games with your baby, like shape sorting or simple puzzles. They are fascinated by their ability to put things into containers and get them out. They enjoy looking at different colors and colourful shapes will make it more interesting as they identify each shape and corresponding hole. Matching the right shape to the right hole each time is stimulating and exciting.
Encourage exploration and try new things. While they may display a bit of fear at this age for the unknown, these fears can also be allayed by favourite toys. As they start differentiating between favourites they often like to have different toys they can take to their bed. Also these help them allay occasional fears of being alone or loved ones leaving. Soft toys can be a highly engaging as they different textures and colours that are exciting at this age.
Help develop communication and fine motor skills by talking with them while playing with them. Building sentences or building things, you can encourage both through books and also blocks and building toys. They are just exploring their ability to hold and place things one above the other. Colourful rings or blocks of different with spaces in the centre that are easy to grasp are perfect for this age. Building and removing items enable them to build and exercise their fine motor abilities.
Encourage independence by letting them help with dressing himself and feeding themselves. Provide them with imitations of the real items if needed. A set of toy pans and pots may be just what they need to play with while you are in the kitchen.
Encourage curiosity by exploring the outdoors. This will ensure physical, social as well as cognitive development. Toys like activity walkers to support standing up and taking a few steps apart from keeping toddlers engaged with all the different activities are very useful for this.
Encourage movement for muscle development and motor skills: Pull-along toys for instance are great for motor development. They are often in shapes of animals and birds that are outdoors. The forwards and backwards movement will enable kids to play with it in many ways. They will pull along with the attached string and watch it follow. The large wheels enable easy exploration of movement. At age one they are just learning to walk and moving toys will fascinate with their ability to go from one place to another.
Get toys that encourage exploration and discovery and not just entertain: This is true for toys at all ages. Buttons, gizmos and flashes may hold attention for a while but rarely contribute to the development in children. In fact, many so-called educational toys may actually negatively impact children.
No guide for the right toy would be complete if it did not say that finally, you know your child best and must keep in mind what suits them the most. From dolls to puzzles, cars and books, everything depends on your choice, but giving the child all round exposure benefits them the most.
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