Dedicated playtime provides your newborn with the opportunity to explore, experience, and learn. That’s why it plays a crucial role in the overall cognitive development of your baby. Being parents is a demanding task, especially if you are caring for a newborn.
You have to deal with several responsibilities including developing a sleep schedule, diet planning, choosing a new baby gear, and managing your baby’s hygiene among others. However, building playtime is the one aspect which is often overlooked by most new parents.
There are many different baby toys out there. However, choosing the right ones is not a child’s play. The most popular toys may not be the most educational or the most aesthetic items may not be the safest ones. Don’t worry! These tips will help you choose the toys that will keep your baby happy, occupied, and perfectly safe.
1. Choose Open-Ended Toys
When it comes to selecting toys, you should focus on the ones that run on imagination instead of batteries. If you choose a toy truck that randomly starts flashing lights and moves around by itself, it is going to be more entertaining than educational. Your baby isn’t going to learn anything through actions because the toy truck does most of the movements. All she will do is to observe.
Open-ended toys, on the other hand, require the most action on the part of your baby. It encourages imagination and creative thinking as there is no ‘one way’ to play with it. Surprisingly, simple toys are more open-ended than the complex and expensive ones such as most electronic toys.
For example, stacking cups may look simple compared to a toy robot, but there are several ways to play with them. They come in different sizes and colors. So, while playing with them, you can teach your toddler how to recognize colors and sizes.
You can also use different words such as under, small, big, inside, outside, and empty among others which will help build their vocabulary. Another advantage of open-ended toys is that they can grow with your child. They can be used at different developmental stages as your baby grows up.
2. Prefer Toys That Stimulate Problem-Solving
Unlike adults, children love to explore and experiment. They are more interested in taking things apart, putting them together, and building them up in as many ways as possible. It helps boost their cognitive development. So, make sure to incorporate games and toys that stimulate your toddler’s problem-solving skills. Try to build their logical thinking skills from an early age.
Open-ended toys are the best way to foster your child’s problem-solving skills. But, to solve a problem, the baby must first learn cause-and-effect. For newborns, you can try using rattles and toys that make noises to discover cause-and-effect relationship. When she moves the rattle, she hears the sound.
When she gets a little older, say 12-18 months, you can introduce her to puzzles, shape-sorters, and nesting blocks. At this age, she will start recognizing shapes, textures, and sizes. So, will be able to learn which two blocks fit together or when you place a block on a ball it falls but when you place it on another square it doesn’t.
3. Select Toys That Boost Language and Communication
Along with the problem-solving skills and creative thinking, your baby also needs to learn to communicate. There are a few toys that allow you to interact with your baby and introduce her to alphabets, letters, and words. You can use cloth books or durable board books. These books come with fabric spots that your baby can touch and feel while you are reading.
As mentioned earlier, avoid using toys that do more for the baby. The less a toy does, the more your child has to do. In this case, a self-reading book will leave little room for developing your baby’s vocabulary.
Stuffed animals are necessary for cuddling, but they are equally valuable for improving your toddler’s vocabulary and communication. For example, whenever your baby picks up a dog, tell her it’s a dog. If possible, you can also ask a question or tell a relevant story. Just like Ferdinand the bull. I remember my father making animal noises and telling u about them when I was a child. The older she gets, art supplies such as crayons, fingerprints, and markers can also prove helpful in fostering verbal interaction and language.
4. Choose Toys That Resemble Real-Life Objects
As your baby grows up, she will start to explore her surroundings and various objects lying around her such as TV remotes, mobile phones, light switches, and kitchen utensils. Unfortunately, toddlers tend to explore things through touch, taste, and feel. So, whatever she picks up, no matter how gross it is, will go into her mouth first. It is one of the biggest concerns you will have to deal with as a parent.
One way to teach your children to handle these objects carefully is to let them play with toys that resemble these real-life objects. You can use plastic dishes, food and fruit, toy keys, toy phones, musical instruments, child-size brooms, baby-safe mirrors, mops, and brushes among others. These toys will also help her master hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. That means you will have fewer accidents at home.
5. Safety Trumps All
When it comes to selecting toys for your baby, safety is the foremost concern. One of the best ways to ensure her safety is to provide your baby with age-appropriate toys. She might become a doctor in future, but she is certainly not capable of handling a real stethoscope when she is just a year and a half. It may sound a little extreme. But, people often think their children as advanced, giving them something they are not able to wield.
You will also need to read and understand various safety warnings on the age-appropriate toys. They are there for reason, so don’t ignore them. Always check the toy presents before handing them over to your baby. Be aware of any allergies your baby has.
Whether they are presents from your friends and family or you have bought them yourself, toys will soon become an integral part of your baby’s life. However, deciding which gifts are right for your baby is no cakewalk. Hopefully, these tips will prove helpful in this regard. If you have found some new ways thinking about toys or keeping your toddler engaged, do share them in the comments below.