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Learning Toys for Toddlers

Find out how learning toys for toddlers can strengthen motor skills and creativity.

Stacking toys teach toddlers to combine objects to make something new. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Stacking toys teach toddlers to combine objects to make something new.

Learning toys for toddlers can assist children in the development of their physical, mental and social skills as they progress from infants to toddlers, exploring the world in new ways.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the interactions with adults during quality playtime enhances a child's brain development and ability to learn, as well as increases the child's self-esteem. Toys should be carefully selected based on a child's development and personal needs.

Young children tend to prefer action toys they can manipulate to produce movement or sound; lightweight toys that toddlers can easily lift and carry are most suitable for this age group. Toddlers prefer bright colors and toys that are very detailed and realistic.

During their toddler years, children begin to imitate adults and enjoy playing with toys that replicate an adult's behavior, such as toys inspired by caretaking and housekeeping tasks. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cautions parents to steer clear of toys with sharp edges, small detachable parts, toxic materials, parts that may entrap fingers, toes or hair, and toys with straight pins and electrical parts.

Action Toys for Toddlers

Toddlers enjoy performing an action that causes a change in a toy and prefer toys with mechanisms and objects they can move. Such action toys help toddlers develop numerous skills: Toddlers exercise their motor skills and hand-eye coordination, or their ability to use sight to guide motion. Toddlers may also gain a sense of accomplishment by making visible changes, which develops better problem-solving skills by seeing the effects of their actions.

Appropriate active toys for toddlers include those with large wheels children can push across the floor, wagons to put toys in, small rocking horses to ride, doll strollers to strap dolls in, and lightweight balls to toss across the room. At this age, children can also play with ride-on toys that they can propel using their feet, such as Radio Flyer Inchworms and Cozy Coupes. Toddlers can also participate in active play on gym equipment such as tunnels, slides and low climbing structures .

Manipulative Toys for Toddlers

Toddlers like to combine objects to make something new, and learning toys for toddlers strengthen this skill. Wooden or plastic building blocks, simple stacking toys, peg boards, simple matching toys, puzzles and shape sorters are great toys for this age group. Toddlers also enjoy playing with objects that disappear and reappear, such as pop-up toys or a jack-in-the-box.

Creative Toys for Toddlers

Children start gaining control of motor skills during the early years and also begin learning how to create new things. For this reason, basic building toys such as blocks are a great way to stimulate toddlers' minds.

Children may also enjoy marking or scribbling on paper. To enhance creative skills, give toddlers the opportunity to play with large crayons and sturdy paper. Young children may also enjoy playing with clay or finger paints, as long as adults closely supervise their activities.

Toddlers usually respond well to music from CDs or old-fashioned music boxes that they can crank. Some experts believe that music and musical toys can enrich a toddler's mind, particularly if the music is classical.

Imaginative Toys for Toddlers

Providing children with costumes for dress-up, backdrops for puppet shows and musical instruments for concerts will enhance children's imaginations. These toys can be improvised from items found around the house, such as Tupperware containers, pots and pans, old clothing, empty cardboard boxes and other child-safe objects. Imaginative children may make anything into a toy, as long as it is safe and clean.

Transportation toys such as cars, trucks or trains are also great learning toys for toddlers. At around 1 year old, children begin to demonstrate imitation skills and may enjoy playing with dolls and other role-playing (plastic) toys such as vacuums, mowers or household appliances .

Books for Toddlers

Because toddlers are able to identify objects by pointing, they enjoy being read to and often like flipping through picture books themselves. Books that are repetitive and predictable help toddlers recognize the correlation between spoken word and written word. Peek-a-boo books and touch/tactile books in which they can feel textures help to reinforce this correlation. Reading books with toddlers can be great fun for both child and adult.

These toys not only stimulate a child's thinking and sharpen his or her learning skills, they also build a lasting bond of trust and closeness with parents and care-takers that is likely to last throughout the child's life.

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