Before I had children I had a few loosely held ideals about the kinds of toys and the volume of toys I wanted my children to grow up with. I want toys that are fun and engaging, but help promote age appropriate cognitive and physical development. I want toys that can be manipulated in multiple ways, and can serve as a catalyst for a growing imagination. I don’t want so many toys that my children become overwhelmed with choices, and think they are always deserving and needing the next new thing. I don’t believe in getting a new toy every time we go to the store or just because its Monday. I believe in rotating toys to maximize toys so they are “like new” and are looked at in a different way the next time they show up in the playroom. I believe a little boredom is OK. It often sparks the best ideas and adventures through creativity.
While controlling all of the factors that go into a growing toy collection is impossible (we are blessed with many family and friends that love our daughter!), I do try and be conscious and mindful (when I’m able) of the kinds of items that make our way into home. Whether it is the few items we wrap up for certain holidays, or a toy here or there I know will fit perfectly with her current interests and growth, there are several areas I try and hit on. All focusing on different cognitive skills sets and motor development. While the list is not comprehensive and could surely be organized in different ways, I thought I’d share some of the areas I try and build on. We’re still working on ours! If you’ve got a birthday or special occasion coming up, it may help fill a gap or two in your own collection!
INFANT – Because infants use all of their senses to make sense of the world around them, the key is incorporating as many of them as possible. Think different colors, different textures, different sounds, different motions, and different ways to grasp and hold. Mirrors are also a big hit!
SHAPE SORT – Promotes fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial relations, problem solving, and as they get older.. learning their shapes!
BUILDING BLOCKS – Could be blocks for stacking and balancing, or blocks that fit within each other. Its open ended thinking, and will be a classic for years and years.
CLOTH AND BOARD BOOKS – There are a million and five reasons to start reading with little ones from the get-go, but also try and find books with familiar shapes, pictures, and items. These will help with recognition and the basic ideas of language. Interactive/sensory books with different textures are also a hit!
PUZZLES – start small with a few pieces (shapes, animals, etc) that have large knobs to grasp. As they get older, work up to more pieces with more intriguing and challenging pictures and configurations. Promotes problem solving, fine motor skills, and hand eye coordination.
NESTING/STACKING – Cups, rings, boxes, shapes, etc
MUSIC – xylophones, little pianos, tambourines, symbols, drums, maracas, etc. The different movements required and different sounds through cause and effect are great to experiment with
ACTIVITY CUBES – Most activity cubes offer an array of options for different fine motor skills. Pushing, pulling, sorting, and sliding all in one!
BOOKS – Yes, I listed it above. Yes, I’m listing it again. Books! 🙂
ARTS AND CRAFTS SUPPLY – Start with the larger markers and crayons that are easier to develop grip strength, and eventually move to our standard sized items. You never know what route some crafts can eventually take, so start compiling a supply of different papers, paints, sponges, markers and crayons (all washable! everything washable!), cotton balls, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, an artist smock (to try and save some of their clothes?), googly eyes, glue sticks, poms of all sizes, etc. (Obviously make sure whatever supplies you use are age appropriate – no choking please!)
PUSH, PULL, AND RIDE – Once they’re sitting, make sure you start to get ready for pulling up and walking with the assistance of a push toy. Low rise riding toys are also great for gross motor development!
PRETEND PLAY TOYS – A lot of times you can scrounge things you already have in the house to help build this collection. Try and think of every day tasks or items we use that they can use safely to build imagination. Play phones, kitchen sets (try with food, utensils, and a grocery cart), a work bench, dress up clothes, medical kits, brooms and vacuums (child size!), cash registers, dolls and animals, puppets, etc. Help them learn to master every day tasks through imaginative play.
WATER – This includes bath toys or outdoor toys for nice weather days. Let them fill, empty, and splash! A lot of times household items will do just fine. Think of big spoons and bowls!
SIT TO CRAWL TO STAND – I love toys that allow for growth with the child. Whether its legs that come on and off a pull-up stand toy, or a toy that has areas for sitters, crawlers, and standers, they last a long time and can be used in many ways.
GROSS MOTOR FOR TODDLERS – Sand boxes, low ride toys, tricycles, low climbing toys, balls of all sizes, sit and spin, scooters, push lawnmowers, bouncers or ball pits, mini trampolines, etc.
USE OF BOTH HANDS SIMULTANEOUSLY – A necessary skill for many pre-school/kindergarten type activities. Help build that skill with toys that require both hands to be doing something at the same time, even if its just one hand holding an item while the other manipulates it. Think wind up toys or something like a Mr. Potato Head!
EDUCATIONAL TOYS – These can vary greatly, but could include things like large letter flashcards with pictures, toys that teach letters, animals, animal sounds, shapes, etc, baby sign language materials, Leapfrog readers and writers, counting toys, bilingual toys, science kits, etc.
BE MINDFUL OF GENDER ROLES & COLORS – I’m a firm believer in exposing both boys and girls to a lot of the same toys and opportunities for play. While we may have always dreamed of having a twirling princess or a star football player, those may not be the kind of children we raise. Tayler has her dollhouse and a kitchen set, but she also has a tool bench and a 5 in 1 sports complex toy. And while choosing all masculine or feminine colored toys can be fun for your first, if you choose to have more children that end up being of the opposite sex, you’ll want several gender neutral options.
If you’re family is anything like mine, they are always asking for ideas for holidays and birthdays. If you’re anything like me, you have no problem giving them ideas (while never expecting any of it!). If that sounds like you, check out Babylist. I’ve used it for Tayler’s baby registry, holiday ideas, and birthday ideas. It puts any item from any store into one central location that is easy for family members to look at! Plus, its free!
Enjoy play time with your children! 🙂