We all have a favorite toy whose memories can still elicit a chuckle or two. Mine was a plastic food set with plates and cups and saucers. I used to play with my cousins, and we certainly had fun imagining those toy plates brimming with the sweets we craved back then.
Experts say that playing with toys is essential to a child’s development starting from the infant stage. Kids’ toys like rattles, mobiles, toy teethers, and key rings help babies connect sound, sight, taste, touch, and smell to objects. Rattles do help them learn about cause and effect not to mention introduce colors and shapes.
Color and shape recognition, spatial relationship awareness, hand-eye coordination, and other motor skills are exercised through playing with educational toys that were made specifically to enhance those skills. There are also kids’ toys that enhance the kids’ imagination and creativity. Some toys even teach them patience (think floor puzzles) and reinforce the concept of hygiene (think bath and tub toys).
Toy stamps and colorful beads may not seem like great toys, but they do enhance a little girl’s creativity and imagination and introduces her to the arts and crafts. For young boys, getting their own set of wheels can become such a bone of contention. Getting their own bikes or toy cars is part of their pretend play to be like their dads.
Stuffed animals look cute and cuddly and can easily be dismissed as frivolous objects. These toys in fact are so much more than aesthetically pleasing objects. Not only do they introduce the tots to animals, these toys also give them an exercise to explore textures. Some stuffed toys do make animal sounds when a certain appendage is pressed or held by the child. This is a good start for a child to learn about sounds and cause and effect.
Toys are really important in different stages of a child’s development. It is up to the grown-ups to figure out which toys are appropriate for the child’s age as well as to ascertain that the toys are safe for use.
There are still many skills that a child can learn through playing with his educational toys, but one thing is for certain – the key player in his growth is still human interaction.
According to Marilyn Segal, Ph.D., dean emeritus and director of the professional development program at Mailman Segal Institute for Early Childhood Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the most important toy is the parent and other caregivers because babies crave one-on-one social interaction and need the security it provides.