Infant & Toddler Toy Guide - Part 2

THINKAMAJIGS’ GUIDE TO CHOOSING EDUCATIONAL TOYS FROM BIRTH TO AGE 3

PART 2: AGE-RELATED DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES

“What are the best educational toys for my child at different ages and stages of development?”

We hear this question a lot - it's something many new parents struggle with. There are a lot of options available. We have developed some guidelines to help you identify the best educational toys for each step of your child’s growth and learning.

Part 1 looks at skills development, Part 2 looks at age-related developmental stages.

Most toy packaging indicates a recommended age range, and we’ve categorized our toys and teaching materials by those criteria. Determining the recommended age for a particular toy is generally based on two factors: safety and developmental abilities. Safety requirements are legislated and enforced by governmental agencies, while the appropriateness for a particular developmental stage is decided by the manufacturer, based on research and focus group studies.

Consider the manufacturer’s age recommendations, but don’t underestimate your child’s ability to learn and absorb. If the packaging says “age 18 months” and you think your 10-month-old or 1-year-old might be ready, go ahead and let them try it. Even if they can’t figure things out right away, the seed of understanding will be planted and you may be amazed to see how quickly that seed grows.

For example, our Fraction Bricks – Circles is a set of small, colourful wooden blocks that are in a whole, halves, thirds and quarters. We’ve categorized it as “6 months+.” While a 6-month-old is too young to understand fractions, the blocks can help your infant develop gross motor skills like grasping and manipulation. As your baby grows, she will hone fine motor skills by learning to assemble the pieces in the base tray. Skip ahead a few months and the same toy can be used for language development as your child learns the names of the colours, and for sorting as she figures out how to group the pieces by colour. Before long, she’s ready to learn fractions.

You should always check safety warnings on packaging to confirm any hazards to a younger child, for example, strings or elastics (strangulation danger), sharp edges that could cut little hands, noisy toys that might damage hearing, or small parts that are easily swallowed. It is important to always supervise children closely while they play.

WHAT TO EXPECT AT WHAT AGE

Birth to 3 Months

The first few months of a baby’s life are about basic tactile and visual development. Newborns are not even aware that they have hands at this point, let alone how to use them, so it's a bit early for any sort of grasping toys.

Newborns cannot see colour, only black, white and shades of grey. At this stage, they will be more interested in shapes and patterns than bright colours. They also cannot focus more than about 8 to 12 inches from their face, so bring things close to encourage more reactions. Eye-tracking starts to develop at this stage and any kind of movement can be stimulating even if they can't see very clearly.

A newborn's hearing is also not yet fully developed, and they respond better to high-pitched sounds and voices rather than lower-pitched ones. Introduce toys that can be held close to their face or in their mouth without being dangerous.

Recommended toys:

4 to 6 Months

Infants start to develop basic motor skills, such as grabbing and holding toys or your finger. And that, of course, means everything goes into the mouth, so be vigilant about keeping small objects out of reach and avoid toys with sharp edges.

Vision continues to sharpen at this stage as focus improves and they begin to see colours, starting with red. Hand/eye coordination and depth perception develop around this age as well and infants start to reach out for things that they see.

Recommended toys for this age include:

7 to 12 Months

Baby is really moving now, as he starts to gain strength and control in the legs for rolling over, crawling and standing. He can also sit up on his own.

Language skills continue to progress, and he can now recognize his name as well as other frequently used words. First words will be coming soon.

Hand-eye coordination continues to strengthen, as does the memory of things they’ve seen and touched. Toys that promote this coordination should be introduced.

Recommended toys for this age include:

1 to 2 Years

At this stage, he’s becoming aware of his own behaviour and of how the people around him behave. He’s taking social cues from other people, especially from parents and siblings. His imagination is springing to life, so stories, language and drawing/scribbling activities reveal new ideas to him and help him express those ideas as he continues to learn new words and develop finer motor control.

He likes to help mom and dad around the house and is proud of his ability to do this. This is the time to introduce “practical life” activities to encourage these skills and lay the foundations for building confidence and independence.

He learns to walk and run at this age, so toys that get him moving will encourage and strengthen those abilities.

Recommended toys for this age include:

2 to 3 ½ years

She’s creating a real vocabulary now and repeats words she hears around the house or on TV. Basic drawing abilities develop during this time, and this is a good time to look for activities that help build muscle memory in the hands that will eventually be used for writing.

Independence continues to grow, and continued exposure to practical activities that involve dressing and washing, and dealing with everyday objects helps to foster confidence.

Recommended toys for this age include:

YOUR ROLE AS A PARENT

Never underestimate your own role in your child’s development. You are your child’s very first teacher. Toys are the tools that help with learning but it’s you who nurtures that growth. Besides providing your child with these fun educational tools, you are there to encourage, instruct, and celebrate as they discover and progress and blossom into the most amazing little beings.

HOW THINKAMAJIGS CAN HELP

We know there are a lot of choices in educational toys out there and we hope this information gives you some guidelines to consider. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about our products and help you find the right toy for your child, at every age and stage of their development.

Thinkamajigs offers a wide variety of Montessori and Montessori-inspired teaching materials, educational toys, games, and related products, and we are constantly adding new items from around the world. While the educational benefits and merits of each product are first and foremost, we also ensure that every item meets our high standards of quality, durability, safety, and value, so you can be confident you’re buying a great product at a great price with great customer service.

CLICK HERE to read Part 1: Skills Development.

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