When my daughter was barely five weeks old, she noticed the stuffed animals hanging from her mobile for the first time. Her eyes were fixated on them as she smiled, cooed, and excitedly moved her chubby, little arms. As a new mom, I was awestruck to see my tiny baby, who had mostly been sleeping and eating up until now, discover these friendly figures with such delight! A couple of weeks later, while lying under her musical activity gym, she began swatting at a circular rattle dangling above her . When I would press the button to play music, she would kick her legs in response to the melody. It was evident that the activity gym's lights, sounds, and colors were stimulating her senses, and she was loving every minute of it.
Another toy my daughter couldn't get enough of was her activity cube. It had six sides full of fun and discovery including a bead maze, a plastic mirror, spinning disks, rattles, and a bead barrel! From the time she was seven months old until close to two years, she would flip, spin, and shake that toy almost daily. When my son reached about six months old, he was quite taken with this colorful cube as well. As he got a little older, he even tried to see how far he could throw it! (Luckily, it was very durable too.) The activity cube was also great for developing fine motor skills, experiencing different sounds, and teaching cause and effect.
As a mom and early childhood educator, I am a big fan of toys that teach early cognitive skills and promote physical development. Infants and toddlers are eager to discover the world around them so many early childhood toys are designed to stimulate the senses and encourage exploration. There are numerous playthings out there to choose from so it is important to consider the following before making a purchase:
- Determine if the toy is age appropriate by familiarizing yourself with the needs and abilities of the age group. Many toys display the recommended age on the packaging as well.
- Evaluate the safety and quality of the item. Make sure there are no small or loose parts that could pose choking hazards.
- Select a few items that will slightly challenge your child like stacking blocks or shape sorters. Be patient as he/she works through to solve the problem and be willing to help if necessary.
- Foster creativity by also providing toys that stimulate the imagination and promote "pretend play" such as stuffed animals, baby dolls, and plastic food or dishes.
Another key point to remember is that parent-child interaction adds a social element to play and learning as you point out colors and shapes, offer praise for your little one's efforts, and, most importantly, have fun together! Whether they are five weeks old or five years old, there is nothing quite like playing with your children and watching them discover and learn new things. The experience is truly amazing, and I'm loving every minute of it.