Choosing the Right Toys to Support Childhood Development

By Dr. Iliana Solano, Medical Director of Pediatrics

Playing with toys is often thought of as fun time for children but the seemingly simple act of playing is important to healthy childhood development. Playing helps children to process information, which in turn can assist them in processing the world in which they live.

The famous educator Maria Montessori is credited with saying, “Play is the work of the child,” and children are drawn to toys. Even when there are no toys in sight, children will “create a toy” out of whatever they have available, like a box.

What should parents look for when choosing toys for their children? In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued recommendations for parents and pediatricians, and electronic gadgets were no were to be found. According to the report, the best toys are those that match your child’s developmental skills and abilities while encouraging the development of new skills.

Toys that Encourage Pretend Play

Pretend or imaginary play is a large part of a child’s social and emotional development. It encourages children to flex their imaginations and creative thinking skills. Pretending through toy characters (such as dolls, animals and action figures) and toy objects (like food, utensils or cars) help kids learn to use words and stories to describe and cope with real life events and feelings.

Toys that Hone Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills refer to the ability to make movements using the small muscles in the hands, wrists and fingers. Classic toys that fit the bill include: blocks, shapes, trains and puzzles. Children can learn problem solving and math skills from these traditional favorites.

Arts and Crafts

Many parents have discovered the walls of their home covered in markers, pens or crayons. Kids love making art as well as getting their hands messy. Things like crayons, finger paint, markers, clay and playdough make for perfect toys and help kids develop creativity.

Toys that Boost Language Skills

Engaging with your kids, like reading books out loud together, teaches them about facial expressions, emotions, gestures, body language and voice intonations that promote social and language development. Playing with phone apps or electronic toys/devices that talk, have flashing lights and make loud sounds shouldn’t take the place of human interaction.

Physical Activity

Playing with balls, tricycles or push-and-pull-toys encourages your child to be physically active. This helps physical development and peer-interaction with other children, because of the negotiations around rules that typically take place when kids play together.

The right toys for your child do not have to be expensive or trendy. Instead the focus should be on finding toys that support interactions and quality time between parents or caregivers and the child.

To learn more about your child’s development, reach out to your Legacy Community Health pediatrician. You can schedule an appointment online or by calling 832-548-5000.