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Play enhances your child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. It helps develop creative skills and helps kids figure out how to world around them works.
You may notice that a toddler is just as happy playing with the kitchen utensils as he is with a store-bought toy. This is because banging different utensils engages his sense of touch, sight and sound. Babies and toddlers learn about their world by using all five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Though play comes naturally to kids, you can enhance the power of play by picking age-appropriate toys for your child. A select few can provide the right stimulation and engage and refine the senses.
Here’s a guide to your child’s development and in the first three years and the right toys for him.
Initially, your 1- to 3-month-old baby cannot move much. He needs his senses stimulated in the position he is in. Blinking lights that catch his eye, rattling sounds that make him turn his head to the source and different-textured toys for stimulating his sense of touch are great for this stage.
A 4- to 6-month old learns to roll over and enjoys reaching out, grasping and dropping objects within his reach, developing motor skills.
A 5- to 8-month-old learns crawling, sitting and standing up. Around this time his teeth also starts to develop. Toys which allow him to move on his own are best for this stage.
A 9- to 12-month old is very receptive to language and generally feels clingy towards his caregiver. Sitting down with the baby and pointing out objects and playing is a good way to bond with him. Saying, “Where’s Mommy?” and “Where’s the moon?” is a great way of introducing language skills.
Toys that help:
1 to 3 months old: Crib mobile with lights and sounds, soft and textured toys, child-safe crib mirrors, baby bouncer with music or hanging toys.
4 to 6 months old: Hand-held rattles, toys that make sounds, activity quilts, floor gym.
7 to 9 months old: Musical toys, baby swing with activity bar, toys that help your baby to stand, activity table, pushing toys.
10 to 12 months old: Stacking toys, balls, building blocks.
These 12 months are vital in a child’s development. Some babies may start walking and talking now. Encourage their every move and sound. It’s also important to child-proof your home.
A 13- to 18-month old learns to walk and his body coordination gets better day by day. Clear some space in your house where your child can play and explore his new moves. A 19- to 24-month-old has developed a large vocabulary and can express more clearly. Toddlers are able to play with an older sibling or an adult for a longer period of time at this stage, so one-on-one time and interaction is important. Your child’s hand-eye coordination at this age improves greatly and he is able to hold thick crayons in his hand. Make-believe play is very common at this stage and you must never hesitate to get down to your child’s level and participate. Is your son a doctor one day, a carpenter the next day and a teacher over the weekend? Your child may also like to copy how you chop, rinse and throw the vegetables on the stove.
Toys that help:
13- to 18-month olds: Push and pull wagon, rocking horse, doll stroller, stuffed toys.
19- to 24-month olds: Pretend-play kits: doctor’s set, cooking set, tool set, doll house, toys that allow multiple activities such as an activity table or play centres, puzzles with knobs, shape sorters.
This is probably the most energetic stage in a child’s life. Children in their two’s and three’s just never like to sit still. They love all sorts of jumping games, hopping games, clapping games and anything that allows movement. They are constantly alert, learning and questioning everything around them. Patiently answer their questions. Give them wholesome activities like making sandcastles, mixing clay or play dough, finger painting and puzzles. Each of these activities kindles learning, develops interest in varied activities and shows aptitude as well. Invest in outdoor play too. Pick balls of all sizes, swings, bicycles or tricycles, rockers and slides. Allow your child to get enough physical exercise.
Toys that help:
Tricycle, three- to four-piece puzzles, picture books, hand puppets, water-based toys, outdoor play equipment