Ever wondered what the big fuss is about when it comes to educational and developmental toys for children? Aiyer, they are just toys mah. What’s the big deal? There’s actually a reason why the toy industry brings in tens of millions of dollars in sale every year. Aside from ensuring that they are safe yet attractive for their mini customers, age-appropriate toys actually play an important role when it comes to nurturing upcoming abilities for our little ones at every milestone.
Even from infancy stage, our little bundle of joy is already learning about the world around them. They are absorbing every sight, sound, touch and smell! And this is why getting the right toys at the right time is a bigger deal than you think. Play is extremely important at this stage. It is through play that they develop creativity, imagination, as well as improve on fine motor and cognitive skills. Simply put, when give the right toy at the right time, this will equip our little ones with the right “tool” to match their current age, interests and skills.
Infants 0 to 6 months
At birth your newborn’s eyesight is still developing. Everything will look blurry to them unless you are about 8 to 12 inches away from their face. Your face and your voice will be the most fascinating thing to them in the first few days. But as their eyes begin to adjust and they become more aware of their surroundings, bright, bold contrasting colours, crinkle sounds and rattles will catch their attention too.
Having the right toys at this stage encourage movement which is great for building strong muscles. From improved eye to hand coordination, to reaching out and grasping toys. Then it is rolling over, getting themselves into a sitting position and eventually standing up. Watch them develop important cognitive skills like cause and effect. See the look of delight on their faces when they make that first connection with their favourite toy for example. Here are some toy suggestions that are perfect from birth till 6 months of age:
- Cot/Crib mobiles (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/cot-accessories)
- Rattles (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/blank-tbej8)
- Squeeze/Squeak toys (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/activity-toys)
- Teething toys (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/teethers)
- Soft washable stuffed toys, balls, and fabric books (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/story-time)
- Floor play and activity gyms (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/large-activity-floorplay)
- Unbreakable mirrors
- Interactive toys that play soft music like this Music and Lights Piano Kick Pad from Playgro
- Bath toys here (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/bath-toys) and here (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/bath-time)
Infants 7 to 12 months
Notice your little one starting to be more mobile? They just can’t wait to explore the big would around them. By now, they should be able to roll over, scoot, crawl and some might even start walking before their first birthday!
Not only will they repond and turn to the source of the sound, they will also respond when their names are being called. Even their attention spans are better! So don’t be surprised if they can self-entertain themselves for short periods of time, repeating new skills over and over again. Like taking things out and putting them back in or building towers only to knock it down to be rebuilt again. They may not be able to verbalise their curiousty at this point, but their brains are absorbing everything around them and what better way to do it with the right interactive toys.
Now is the right time to introduce toys that build imagination and fine motor skills. For example smaller sized toys that help them to practise their pincer grip, which by the way, is an important developmental milestone. Toys that move, toys for play pretend as well as toys that are safe enough to be taken apart, sorted and built. These include:
- Baby dolls
- Textured board books
- Puppets (this is great for speech development as well)
- Plastic or wood vehicles
- Jumperoos and activity gyms (although not for much longer!)
- Water toys
- Large, soft building blocks and wooden cubes (hyperlink: https://www.astragroup.com.my/activity-toys)
- Shape sorters and stacking toys (hyperlink : https://www.astragroup.com.my/teethers?lightbox=dataItem-imfoz2u0)
- Balls and a container or box
- Push and pull toys
What about the 1-year-olds?
By now you should get what fuss is all about. There is nothing chin-chai about age-appropriate toys. I mean would you still be able to confine your 1-year-old with his old floor play gym? Well, good luck with that.
Can they help it tho that they lose interest so fast? Your not so little one is absorbing and processing every new experience. It is monkey see monkey do! What mummy and daddy have, I want also! Think keys, your phone, even the daily things you use. Of course, handing them the real thing wouldn’t be hygienic or safe. Let’s not forget that some are not cheap to replace too should anything happens to them! Not to worry, parents can still encourage this while keeping their little ones happy. Here are some other feasible options that would be great for your mini you:
- Pretend toys like toy phones, cameras, keys, dressing up accessories, animals and vehicles
- Board books that show pictures of everyday objects
- Activity tables
- Toys with recordings of preschool songs, rhymes and simple stories
- Wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and mah-jong papers to bring out the creativity in them
- Simple puzzles, busy boards that has dials, switches, knobs, lids and quiet books that have zips, laces and small pieces that allow their small fingers to keep busy.
Some 2-year-olds may still play with everything we’ve mentioned so far but you can make things more challenging and engaging by upping the game for puzzles and building blocks. Find building blocks that are colour coded that snap and buckle together.
Miniature play-pretend props are great too like construction sets, kitchen sets, doctor sets that are made to fit their size and height. Consider braving the mess and introduce finger painting. Not only does it boost their creativity it is also great sensory play! If you prefer a more mess-free option, there are wipe-clean activity books that can be used over and over again and water doodling mats.
Keep their little bodies active by introducing ride-on toys, crawl tunnels, scooters, push bikes and tricycles too. Just remember safety first!
Preschoolers and Kindergarteners
Wow where do preschoolers and kindergartners get their energy! If it isn’t their physical energy that needs burning out, it would be the incessant amount of questions they throw at you. Their inquisitive minds ever so quick to experiment and discover new things.
Counting beads, building blocks sets, puzzle games are great choices. For the older ones, encourage them to actively use their hands with do-it-yourself kits be it beading, science projects, baking and the like.
Take their imagination and creativity to the next level by giving them dressing-up clothes, musical instruments, sand and water play toys. Coloured paper, chalkboard, modeling clay, playdough, crayons, safety preschooler scissors are great too.
But to really burn off all that energy you can bring on the big guns like tricylcles, scooters and ride-on equipments. Tunnels, balls, targets, mini sport gears and games are all designed to get their large and small muscles moving.
Now that you understand the fuss, let’s talk safety
Always ensure that the toys for young children are safe and well-made. Check that they do not have sharp edges or splinters. They should be made out of quality components that are non-toxic but durable and easily cleaned.
Here are some safety pointers before you buy that toy:
- Fabric toys should be labelled as flame resistant and be washable.
- Paint on toys should be lead-free.
- Art materials should be non-toxic.
- Toys suitable for children under the age of 3 should not have small parts of pieces that can be a choking hazard.
- Electronic toys should have battery cases that can be secured with screws so that they cannot be pried open.
- Toys should not have stray strings or wires longer than 18cms
Always follow the suggested age stated on the box and most important of all, do check labels to see if they have been approved and deemed safe by the right authorities. Now that you are equipped with all the right information, go forth and start shopping!