Toddlerhood is an impressive time in child development. They are walking, talking, playing with stuff, and the world is their oyster. The best learning toys take full advantage of this age by helping the child learn through play.
But with so many manufacturers out there claiming to make educational toys, how do you find the best learning toy for your toddler?
Well, according to Catherine Workman, M.D, a developmental pediatrician, the best learning toys for toddlers encourage unstructured, interactive and creative play, as this stimulates cognitive and language development. The milestones child development experts look at in toddlers include language, speech, cognition, big movements and social-emotional behavior.
There's obviously a lot of toys to choose from, but here is what you should look for;
1. Toys that provide multi-play
Toddlers love to experiment and learn by taking things apart, pulling out, putting in, and building things. Choose learning toys that allow open-ended play so your child can play with them in different ways. For instance, wooden/plastic toys can be used to build virtually anything from cars to bridges to zoos. They can also become chairs or bread if need be.
Learning toy tablets are also multi-play in that your child can learn how to spell, sing songs and say the alphabet, all while having a great time. Such kinds of toys spark your child’s imagination and creativity. It also fosters language development because the child has to explain the object to his playmates.
2. Toys that encourage problem-solving and language skills
It’s never too early for toddlers to learn STEM and language skills. They can do this if you provide toys that build problem-solving and logical thinking skills. Blocks, nesting cups, and shape sorters are perfect examples. These interactive posters from Justsmarty help toddlers find letters and numbers and associate them with different pictures.
Your child will learn the concept of shape, color, size, cause and effect, size, and volume. Puzzles are also a fantastic option to learn all the above skills and other cognitive milestones like memory, concentration, recognition, and language.
3. Toys that develop motor skills
The age between 2 and 3 should prepare your child for school. This is where their little hands learn how to hold a pen, write, scribble, draw and manipulate things with their hands. Stock your child’s toy room with crayons and books, markers, pencils, play dough, and paint/paintbrushes. Besides exploring their fine motor skills, these toys also exert their imagination and creativity.
But that’s not all. You also want your child to develop their gross motor skills. They should be able to hold a ball and throw it, hold a cup, feed themselves, and run without problems. This is where balls and kitchen toys come in.
4. Toys that encourage collaborative play
Human beings are social beings who must relate and work with other people and do it in harmony. Toys like puzzles, board games, and kitchen sets help your child learn skills such as collaboration, patience, communication, and compromise. Toddlers are not known for being natural sharers, so you have to teach them at this age in a way that’s fun for them.
Many toddler toys are ablaze with flashing lights and music. But as the AAP warns, the best learning toys for toddlers encourage interaction and physical participation. The child needs to do more than just pressing a button. They must fully invest their minds, eyes, and hands in the play for growth to happen. If you keep that in mind when choosing learning toys, you will be on the right path.