Toys are essential for kids – this is why!
(Oh- and WIN your own, find out how at the bottom of this post)
By Milanie Niemand (Occupational therapist)
My baby girl just turned one and I love watching her discover the world of objects, nature, and toys.
It is a stage in a baby’s life when so much development takes place at once, like learning to crawl, walk, hold, talk, feel, taste and more. Yet, there are so many skills she still has to learn and master. It brings me to the question; how does a child learn? How do they develop or more importantly, what do they need to develop and reach certain milestones? Is buying the next toy just a fad and does my child even need it?
To answer this, I’d like to tell you a bit more about human development. Under most circumstances, babies start the developmental process in the same way. We begin with our basic senses and then gradually advance to more complex aspects. Eventually, we strive to be a fully independent and balanced person, performing optimally in the areas of self-care, school, leisure, and work.
The basic hierarchy of building blocks for development looks like this: At the bottom, we have the basic sensory processes of vision, touch, hearing, smell, taste, proprioception and vestibular. With stimulation of these senses in the baby, the brain starts to make sense of the environment around them.
The next building block is to develop motor control, balance, and mobility, hand function, emotional control and self-regulation etc. Cause-and-effect, visual perceptual components. Memory and concentration can gradually start to develop too.
Well-chosen toys are essential for a child’s optimal development. When I buy toys for my child or for my practice, I choose toys that:
1) Are developmentally appropriate
Young babies, for example, are still learning a lot from their environment through senses, basic motor skills and social skills and need toys that are safe to bang or put in their mouth. Primary schoolers, on the other hand, are refining fine-motor control and visual perception, benefiting from educational boardgames etc.
2) Post adequate challenges
Assists the child in learning to master a specific building block and progress to the next, therefore posing an adequate challenge.
3) Work on a few different developmental aspects at a time
Look for a toy that will for example not only develop fine motor control but also various visual perception skills e.g. building blocks.
4) Offer changing developmental value
Some toys have changing developmental value as the child grows and interacts differently with the toy, for example drawing and colouring in. Initially, it is mostly motor control but later it becomes colour and shape recognition, position in space, midline crossing, creativity, and even emotional awareness.
Toys don’t have to be expensive and can be an everyday household object too but they need to be safe and clean. Prima Baby allowed us to test four of their new toddler and baby toys from the Chicco Baby Senses range. It was the Farmyard Finger Puppet, Farm Animals Theatre, Chicco Baby Senses Rainbow Spinner and Chicco Mrs Giraffe Stroller Rope Toy. They were an immediate hit with my little one, even my five-year-old couldn’t resist the temptation to see if she is still able to master the skills required to play with each!
Chicco Farmyard Finger Puppet & Farm Animals Theatre
The Farmyard Finger Puppet is a glove with vibrant and busy finger puppets. Puppet-play is valuable and versatile from young babies to primary school, especially for social and imaginative play. Not only is it exciting for the child to see the puppets “come alive”, but these puppets have lots of different sensory experiences to see, hear and feel.
The older sibling can even play with the puppet for the younger sibling to watch. By holding the glove close to my daughter, she tracked all the movement of the puppets, listened to my different pretend voices and songs until she reached out and needed to feel the puppets and its little booklet. It is a fantastic developmental toy!
Chicco Mrs Giraffe Stroller Rope Toy
When my daughter wakes up in the morning, she likes to start playing with whatever is in her cot, and the Mrs Giraffe, twisted on the cot side is ready to be played with, allowing her to quietly inspect and explore all the different interesting sensory aspects on her own terms.
Chicco Baby Senses Rainbow Spinner
The Rainbow spinner is visually very appealing and immediately attracts attention and interaction. My one-year-old soon realised by pushing the lever at the top, the inner parts start spinning the colourful balls around. Not only is it stimulating for the senses of vision, hearing and touch, but toddlers learn gross-motor coordination by pushing the lever, develop shoulder and core strength and the start of visual motor-integration. Older children like to try to shake the little balls into the holes, refining their visual-motor integration too. As I write this, I still hear my baby shrieking in delight!
All four Chicco toys were designed specifically for sensory integration and development. They have further proven to be a hit with my 5-year-old too and offer changing developmental value. They enhance independent play but also encourage siblings and adult-child interaction – promoting relationship building.
Toys are essential for kids to develop to their full potential, so take your tick-list along and make the right choices when you buy!
Enter to WINE 4 x toys from the Amazing Chicco Baby Senses range (here)!