Children learn by playing and toys can play a critical role in reaching various developmental milestones. From infancy right through to late childhood, a toy is one of the best tools that can be used for a child to learn and develop physically as well as form essential connections in the brain.
The Importance Of Toys In Childhood Development
Toys in infancy stimulate the 5 senses. Toys that have different textures stimulate the sense of touch and colorful items are visually stimulating. Sounds are also important in this early developmental phase. Babies often put toys in their mouths as this stimulates the sense of both taste and touch. It may even be a good idea to experiment with different mild fragrances and odors to stimulate the sense of smell.
Fine motor coordination is important as an infant grows and is able to start performing a greater range of actions. The simple action of reaching for an object and picking it up is a challenge at this stage. Toys are ideal to attract the attention of a baby to encourage them to perform this action so toy gifts make perfect presents.
Toys should also become more complicated as the baby develops new abilities. Pressing buttons, shaking a toy or performing an action to make a sound is ideal for developing fine motor coordination. Once again, toys that have different textures, are colorful and stimulate the senses are important for babies.
Once a child crawls and then starts to walk, their entire outlook on the world changes and the developmental focus changes from small movements to larger needs. Toys can even encourage a child to become mobile. The aim of toys at this age should be to encourage gross motor skills and co-ordination. This helps develop important functions such as balance, mobility and good muscle tone.
Toys that encourage physical activity are therefore essential at this developmental stage. However, just because the focus has shifted to gross motor skills rather than fine motor skills does not mean that both are not equally important. Remember to upgrade to toys that will continue to stimulate cognitive function as well as the continued development of fine motor skills such as drawing, doing buttons, tying shoes, brushing teeth, etc.
From the age of about 4 or 5 years old, the focus of toys once again evolve. This is the time when a child requires greater stimulation for the brain. At this age, children are normally learning numbers and the alphabet which will affect their ability to read and calculate at a later age. Toys and games that assist in learning these two essential functions are important right throughout childhood.
However, it is important to not become so focused on the physical, mental and emotional development of a child that the emotional and social benefits of playing with toys are neglected. Toys can help a child develop empathy and allow them to express their emotions in a healthy manner.
Learning can be fun and the more a child is able to enjoy their learning, the greater the benefit of toys will be for every aspect of development at every stage.