Whenever I think about the toys my children have had over the years, it is the toddler toys that I think of with most fondness. That little Fisher Price telephone, the wooden building blocks (which we still have – just in case I have grandchildren ever), the cardboard boxes!
What is it about toddler toys that has most of us smiling? I think it is because this is the age where they really start to show their personality and toys that enable this tend to be most loved. They have gone past the stage of sensory stimulation - toddlers are ready for a wider educational experience and interaction with their toys.
A shape sorter is a great toddler toy. Through play, so much can be learned, from shape names and colours to problem solving. As the child acquires new motor skills, other areas develop such as communication and cognition, making it easier to interact with the world around them. My daughter, ‘teaching’ her older brother how to put the shapes into the correct holes explained that “it’s ok if you can’t make it fit. Every shape has got a hole – you have just got to find it.” There’s a life lesson in there somewhere!
Building on those excellent motor skills, toddler toys which involve stacking or sticking things in holes are great! As your child gets more adept at identifying shape or size, they will want to test their newfound skills. I absolutely love lacing things! When I was a child we had a big box of those old wooden cotton reels (handed down from my grandmother who was a prolific seamstress) which I would spend hours threading onto anything I could find (they were great for stacking too and, when I got older, as wheels for homemade vehicles). This Lacing Beads set is just lovely as it reinforces colour, counting and shape and is a great introduction into pre-school activities for your older toddler.
Toddler toys that encourage imaginative play are fun for both your child and you! There is a whole world of creativity and curiosity in your toddler’s head and watching it come out is a joy. Children learn from observing, imagining and doing. Re-enacting experiences they have had or acting out something that is of interest to them allows your child to experiment with decision making on how to behave. These jungle animals, for example, may turn into a happy family taking a trip to the seaside (emulating your last family trip). Toys like this can tell you a lot about how your child views the world and can also be an indicator of mood. If the animals are all sad, it may be that your child is feeling upset about something but hasn’t verbalised that emotion. A simple “Why is the giraffe so sad/angry/happy?” could elicit an outpouring which can be a great relief!
Every child is different and there should be no expectations on how children will play with the toys they are given. This is particularly true for toddlers who attach their own glorious rules to the way they play. Having the opportunity to develop cognitively, emotionally and socially is the best gift you can give. Allowing them the space to grow into their toys is important – some of those baby toys they loved will still be played with but at a different level.
by Allie White, educational consultant to BrightMinds
As a parent and former-teacher, Allie has a hands-on approach to home learning, believing that the best learning is done together in a relaxed environment. Coming from a make-do and mend background, she likes to create activities for her children that use things already in the home.
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