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Useful tips for choosing toys for your toddler

While you may assume that choosing toys for your toddler is an effortless task, a trip to the toy store will leave you feeling overwhelmed. There is a wide variety of toys for toddlers in the market, so how do you choose the right ones for your child? Below are some useful tips for choosing toys for your toddler.

Go for versatile toys

Toddlers enjoy building up, adding on, putting in, pulling out, taking apart, and putting back together. Seek out toys that are versatile in the sense that your little one can play a wide variety of games with them. For example, plastic interlocking blocks or wooden blocks can be used to make a bridge, a zoo, or a road. Other good examples of toys that encourage open-ended play include toys for water and sand play and nesting cups or blocks.

Choose toys that will grow with your little one

It’s not uncommon for toddlers to initially show interest in a toy for a couple of days only to abandon it completely after playing with it a handful of times. To prevent this, you’ll want to go for toys that can be fun for your little one to play with at different developmental stages. Examples of such toys include action figures and plastic toy animals, dump trucks and trains, stuffed dolls and animals, and toddler-friendly dollhouses. Stuffed animals, for example, are entertaining for a young toddler who may make a shoebox home for them, while an older toddler can use them to come up with a make-believe story.

Look for toys that encourage problem-solving and exploration

Playing with toys allows toddlers to practice a skill over and over again until they master it. Playthings that give children the opportunity to figure something out with a bit of help from you - or on their own - help to encourage their logical thinking skills and become persistent problem-solvers. Such toys also help toddlers develop fine motor skills (using the muscles in their fingers and hands), hand-eye coordination, and spatial relation skills (understanding of how items fit together). Examples of toys that encourage exploration and problem-solving include puzzles, blocks, shape-sorters, art materials (such as crayons, paint, clay, and play-dough,) and nesting cups or blocks.

Select toys that allow your child to use his/her imagination

As your little one continues to grow, their imagination and creativity will also flourish. By his/her third year, he/she will be able to take on the role of someone else (like a prince or princess) and imagine that a toy (like a dollhouse) is something else (like a castle). Seek out toys that your child can continue to use as he/she develops and gets even more imaginative. Pretend play is especially useful in building the ability to sequence (logically organize events), language and literacy skills, and problem-solving skills. 

In addition to toddler-friendly dollhouses, other toys that can spark your little one’s imagination include dress-up clothes, plastic cups and plates, toy food, blocks, stuffed dolls and animals, action figures, toy tools, and trains and trucks. A cardboard box is an all-purpose item that you can use in pretend play for toddlers. An easy way to get one for free is to call a local appliance store about picking up a box or two. You can use boxes as barns, houses, tunnels, castles, tunnels - the options are limitless with your child’s imagination.

Allow your child to play with real-world items - or toys that look are a close imitation of the real thing

During the toddler stage, your little one will start becoming adept at figuring out how objects such as light switches and television remotes work. He/she will also develop a keen interest in playing with “real-world” items like your cell phone because he/she wants to demonstrate that he/she can be capable like you. Giving your child the chance to play with “real” items, or better still, getting them toys that look like the real thing will help them problem-solve, develop fine motor skills, and learn how things fit together. Toys that encourage this include toy phones, plastic dishes and food, toy keys, musical instruments, dress-up clothes, child-size dustpans, mops, brooms, and brushes.

Seek out toys that prepare them for reading and writing

Reading and writing are important life skills that can be developed in early childhood. Drawing and scribbling are the first steps in learning to write. Scribbles may not make sense to you, but they are your little one’s way of writing her thoughts. To encourage drawing and scribbling, set out paper, crayons, markers, and finger-paints so your child can use them to draw or scribble whenever they want to.

Reading and sharing stories can help your little one get to know words and language, sounds, and develop early literacy skills. It can also help develop their communication skills, ability to focus, and social skills. To encourage reading, use books and magnetic alphabet letters. “Real-life props like magazines, take-out menus, or catalogs are also fun for your toddler to look at, play with, and build familiarity with print, text, and letters.

Toss in toys that encourage your toddler to be active

As toddlers grow stronger and more confident with their bodies, they learn to do all sorts of physical tricks. As a parent, you want to be encouraging and appreciative of your child’s latest playground achievements. Seek out toys that help your little one practice their current physical skills and develop new ones. 

Examples of toys that can help you achieve this include wagons to fill and pull, balls of different sizes and shapes to kick and throw, moving boxes to make tunnels to crawl through, three-wheeled scooters or tricycles with appropriate protective gear, gardening tools to dig and weed with, pull-toys to pull behind them, child-size basketball hoop, and plastic bowling sets.

Select toys that encourage cross-generational play

While you and your toddler can play almost anything together, some toys are specifically designed for adult participation. Starting at age 3, simple board games that don’t require reading and involve the use of one’s memory are fun for all ages to play. Board games encourage language and counting skills, memory skills, listening skills, and self-control (as kids learn the concept of following rules)

Final thoughts

Toddlers are little adventure-seekers who love to learn by doing. Play gives your little one a chance to practice and develop new skills. The toys your child has access to can play a crucial role in shaping his/her development. 

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