Choose age-appropriate toys for a toddler with safety in mind

A toddler’s “job” is to grow and develop physically and mentally. Toys are the tools of the toddler’s “trade.” The role toys play should not be taken for granted or underestimated. The largest growth and learning spurt for children occurs in the toddler years, and they need toys which help advance mental development and improve motor skills.

It goes without saying that safety is the most important factor to consider when choosing appropriate toys. Many would say toys should also be educational. It is a fact that all toys become educational in the hands of toddlers who are learning and exploring at an extremely rapid pace.

Following is a list of appropriate toys for toddlers:

Fine motor skill toys

Puzzles, shape sorters, stringing beads, and pegboards with large pegs all help the child with fine motor skills. Toy telephones, musical toys of any large and colorful variety, pounding hammers and pegs, all assist with hand eye coordination and finger dexterity.

Art supplies of all types, including non-toxic, washable paint, crayons and markers should be available to the toddler to assist in fine motor skills and expression of creativity. Clay and chalkboards with chalk are also in this category, but require supervision.

Blocks of all varieties, including large cardboard, soft, and lightweight wood with letters and numbers embossed, help with reading readiness, learning numbers, coordination and imagination. When blocks are accompanied with small cars and figurines, a child can create his own world and play in it for hours on end.

Large motor skill toys

Toys aimed at physical activity for both indoor and outdoor play are necessary. This category includes push/pull toys, riding toys, balls, beanbags, slides and climbing equipment. Battery operated toys should only be used with adult supervision.

Bath toys and sand toys fall into this category also. They include containers to fill and spill, measuring cups and spoons, buckets, floating toys and waterproof figurines.

Toy maintenance is crucial. All toys used for independent play should be washable, non-toxic, non-electric and contain no small parts. When the child outgrows a toy or it is broken, it should be taken away and disposed of in an appropriate manner. It is demoralizing for a child to play in a room full of broken or age-inappropriate toys.

If a child has too many toys they should be rotated, because an array of too many toys causes over stimulation and actually inhibits creativity. The same care should apply to picking up toys and putting them away. Learning to care for his toys will predispose the child to respect and take care of his belongings later in life.

Toys are very serious business. When a toddler has what he needs, his creativity and development are optimized and his “child’s play” will enable him to make the transition one day into an intelligent and productive human being.