In the busy jumble that modern family life can be, it can be easy to forget just how valuable play can be to your baby or toddler’s healthy development.
Play is important work and toys are your child’s vital tools. Not only are the right toys fun on tap, they’re secretly teaching your child all kinds of important things about themselves, the world and people around them.
Here’s a guide to the important work your baby’s doing at playtime and how the right toys really do promote learning (as well as fun times!)
1. Toys help babies recognise their world and tune into language
From the moment babies are born they are programmed for curiosity and growth, looking to make sense of things they encounter and communicate with people they meet.
Toys that give tots the chance to practice identifying familiar people, places and objects make these valuable early lessons heaps of fun. They also get some early runs on the board in the communicating and reading game, too.
Look for toys with familiar shapes, symbols and letters on them to give your child a head start. They help babies become aware of basic language concepts and patterns.
2. Toys introduce the exciting concept of cause and effect
Do this and THAT will happen! Amazing!
Simple toys that encourage an action and deliver a reward are not only key in fostering the idea of cause and effect, they help babies and toddlers feel happy and accomplished, and foster dexterity.
Action/reaction toys that pop up, make sounds, light up or move when touched are the perfect choice for babies who are keen to explore the world and reap some fun (or noisy!) rewards.
3. Toys encourage conversation and hone fine motor skills
As babies and toddlers become more mobile, lots more options open up in the playtime stakes.
No longer needing to just play in tandem with a carer or parent, they can independently experiment with toys like blocks, stacking toys, nesting toys and activity centres, much to their delight.
Not only is this great for developing fine motor skills, it’s the perfect opportunity to spark some cute conversations with your little one and celebrate their solo efforts with lots of praise and smiles.
4. Toys invite exploration and boost gross motor skills
As babies become even more mobile and dexterours toys for refining gross motor skills – those large muscle movements – really come into their own.
Ride-on toys, balls and pull-along toys all help to encourage confidence and physical development, as well as providing opportunities for experimentation, social interaction and adventuring.
(PLUS, they’re heaps of fun!)
5. Great toys refine hand-eye coordination
In their quest to discover how things work and test their own abilities, carefully designed toys are the perfect partner-in-crime for growing babies.
The right toy can provide a stealthy educational boost AND assist with mastering hand-eye coordination. (It can also entertain and inspire little ones to keep exploring!)
Simple puzzles, toys that come apart, toys that stack, shape sorters and musical toys are all ideal for instilling confidence, fostering development and, of course, entertaining.
6. Toys invite role-play and nurture social skills
Toys that mimic household objects and encourage role-play are hugely important when it comes to growing your baby up. They provide opportunities to play ‘let’s pretend’ and process the world around them while also sparking co-operation and conversation.
While you are guaranteed to hear adorable shades of yourself in your toddler’s first attempts at mimicking, it’s all for the greater good, helping your child to understand more about how the world ticks and the importance of communication and connection.
Kid-sized versions of familiar objects are perfect for this kind of play, as are dress-ups, play dough, character-driven play sets and dolls.
7. Toys encourage problem solving
The right toys can encourage your adventurous child to experiment and problem solve, fostering curiosity and independence in the process.
Getting to the bottom of a tricky toddler-sized dilemma not only results in a joyful sense of satisfaction for the child in question, it helps them to learn more about making decisions, shows them how things work and encourages positivity and persistence.
Chatting together about different ways to play with these toys is a perfect opportunity to connect and encourage new words and ideas.
Puzzles, nesting toys, blocks, shape sorters and toys that fit together are all great options for your little sleuth.
8. Toys reveal the size and order of things
Toys which stack or fit into each other, simple puzzles and play sets all tell toddlers important things about how things work together and exposes them to early ideas about organisation and relationships.
Blocks which graduate in size may seem super simple, but they’re fostering spatial awareness and are teaching littlies important lessons about shapes, weight, balance and colour too.
Toys with pull-apart components invite kids to put them back together, and even when their attempts are a little ill-fated, they’re learning on their feet and gathering clues about the world.
9. Interesting toys encourage concentration
Mastering a new toy is an exciting endeavour, but it can also prove a challenge to excited babies and toddlers.
Focusing their attention is not always easy, but with the right toy they’ll soon be completely absorbed.
Playing with a new toy encourages persistence, risk taking and experimentation. It also invites your toddler to filter out other distractions and focus on the task at hand. These are all valuable skills for thriving kids to build on.
Of course, all these benefits come under the stealthy disguise of ‘just having fun’! It’s encouraging to realise that playtime is important work and even the simplest games are fostering vital growth in your little one.