Playtime! Making Use of Toys to Boost Development

by Jodi Gilray-Szostak, PT, DPT, c/NDT, Jodi Gilray Pediatric Therapy

Your little one will grow at a rapid rate (sadly). As they grow, you’ll notice the toys they engage with change over time.

Consider these age-appropriate toys.

Baby (1-12 months) 

Playtime is about exploration! Blocks, baby activity centers, sensory bags, mirrors and ring stacks help your child explore a world full of color and sensation.

Incorporating toys during tummy time is a good idea so they can explore while developing strength in those growing muscles.

Toddlers/preschool  

Toddlers are understanding how objects work. Books, easy puzzles, coloring books, balls, dolls (items for pretend play), and really anything with a ton of color will get your kiddo’s imagination flowing.

School Age

Talents and interests are beginning to blossom. Your child has refined their skills nicely for a more advanced session of playtime. Jump ropes, bikes and board games help development, and it’s time to take books, puzzles and sports to the next level.

Quality over Quantity  

A study from the University of Toledo in Ohio showed kids with fewer options to choose from had a higher quality experience at playtime, including greater prominence of problem-solving skills, creativity and self-expression.

When it comes to getting toys, think about quality and variety. Toys that encourage creativity (art set), fine motor skills (coloring books), physical activity (soccer ball), imagination (action figure), and problem-solving (puzzles) are all great options to keep in the toy box.

If you already have tons of toys, that’s OK. Pull out two or three options for them to choose during playtime. This allows for fewer distractions.

The 411 on Electronic Toys  

A study revealed that traditional toys and books promoted better language skills than play with electronic toys. Parents were less likely to interact with their children during play with electronic toys.

This means that opportunities for language learning decrease.

Join In!

At the end of the day, you are your child’s best option for playtime.

What a child learns from you as a parent is irreplaceable. Be sure you have a presence during playtime sessions. You can enjoy watching your kiddo explore new things and discover passions, maybe even to the point where they engage with the same toy over and over again.

This is all part of the learning process, and you’re definitely a key part of it all.