Your little bundle of joy is growing up fast! Soon going to be two years old and with every passing day his/her learning is growing in leaps and bounds and you are constantly struggling to keep up with the pace of development.
Shopping or buying gifts/toys for a child in early years can be tough, tricky and creative as they may not just play with any toy. Every parent enjoys watching their baby "learn through play". Instead of buying toys that do not have specific purpose, it is far more meaningful to get toys that have specific learning objectives that are achieved through play. Children do not differentiate between work and play in the early years. Hence, they enjoy all toys/activities/play/work that is engaging and keeps them interested.
Parents struggle to find the right toy from the overwhelming clutter that exists in the market. Besides, parents are always wary that children do not play with the toys that are purchased and lose interest very fast. The most common grouse that parents have is that their child is not engaged with the toys they buy though the toy looks colourful and attractive to the adult.
So, how then to pick the right toy in early years? A few guidelines that can be followed in picking toys will help solving some of the issues highlighted above.
- Several toys in the market claim to be multi-purpose. For e.g. the same toy is used for shapes, sizes and colours and hence gets quite complicated from the child’s perspective. This is one of the primary factors for the child losing interest in the toy very soon, finding it confusing and overwhelming. It is advisable to look at toys that have a single objective rather than multi-utility toys. With this, you will find your little one far more engaged with the toys you purchase. As a simple example, if you were to buy a geometry board with shapes, ensure the shapes are all in the same color rather than multi colour. Since the objective of the board is to understand shapes, you do not want to confuse the child with colors.
- The toy should challenge the child sufficiently at the correct development stage. So checking the suggested age for the toy is a must-do which will give an indication as to whether it is developmentally appropriate. Also, evaluate if the toy is too easy or too difficult. If it is too easy, the child loses interest very fast and if it is too difficult they will get frustrated
- Try and get toys that can engage the child through multiple activities that gradually increase in complexity over few months. This way, the child finds new things to do with the same toy and their familiarity with the toy increases over time. Combined with a single purpose objective, the toy will reinforce learning through multiple means which stays with the child for life.
- Self-correcting toys are a huge positive especially in early years, which means the toy will allow the child to make mistakes, but when mistakes are made the child can discover for themselves what the mistake is. This is the power of positive failure. As the child continues to make mistakes with the toy, it continuously challenges them and then when they get it right, they discover the objective of the toy. This is what is referred to as “Learning through Discovery”. This cannot happen if the toy does not have self-correcting properties built in. This “Discovered Learning” is what stays with the child for life.
- It is always good to purchase toys that are of good quality rather than toys that break on first use though they may be lower priced. Just when the child gets interested in a toy, if it breaks or stops working, it is extremely disheartening for the child. Also, with the number of use and throw articles that are choking the environment today, we want to encourage children to treasure the toys they purchase rather than buy and throw toys every month. Hence, toys that can be used over a period of time and which are of good quality allow the child to treasure what they have.
- Reduce the clutter in the house by having a select number of toys available for a child to pick from. This way, the child does not get overwhelmed by the clutter around them. It is a good practice to keep rotating toys that the child sees in the room. You will find that children go back to toys that they played with 2-3 months back and find new ways of playing with them. They also get excited by the familiarity of having played with it and seeing it again in front of them. So, it would be good to put away some toys after certain use and bring them back later for the child to play with again.
- Preferably look for toys that are natural rather than man made materials like plastic. Children are more attracted to natural textural materials and gravitate towards toys made from wood, jute, cane over materials like plastic and metal.
With these simple guidelines in mind, we hope your little one will have a far more fulfilling time being engaged with toys. This will ensure that they are “Playing it Right”.