How do you ensure that the educational toy you buy will be right for your child? As with everything there are no guarantees with children. There are a couple of things to consider when selecting children's educational toys that can improve the chances that your choice will be well received. First, evaluate the developmental stage that your child is at. Select educational toys that target skills and abilities for that stage. An educational toy that is too advanced may cause frustration, and one that is too simple will not be challenging enough to warrant attention. Below is a general guideline for what types of children's educational toys are better suited for developmental stages from newborn through 3 years old. This is only meant to be a guide to start you thinking in the right direction. Use these guidelines and your knowledge of your child's interests to you help make your educational toy purchases.
Newborn to 3 Months: Babies cannot do much at this stage but their senses are eager for stimulation. Children's educational toys with high-contrast patterns and bright colors will capture little ones' attention. Babies can see color from birth but have difficulty distinguishing between similar tones. Educational toys designed with bright and distinctly different colors like red, green, black and white help babies differentiate shapes and patterns. Babies spend a good deal of time on their backs and sides at this age making colorful mobiles that play music a great educational toy choice. Babies are fascinated by their reflection in safety mirrors. They are not able to recognize themselves but the activity is great visual stimulation. Baby gyms are excellent educational toys because of the variety of stimulation they offer. Baby gyms have bright colors, a variety of attachments with different shapes, textures, and sounds. Most gyms now play music and have lights as well. These educational toy gyms require baby to pull, kick, or bat something to set off the stimulus helping to develop motor skills.
Suggested toys for this age: Galt Paynest and Gym, Busy Bear Mirror, 2 in 1 Smart Gym, Farm Friends Mobile, Jumbo Gym, and Farm Linkies.
3 to 6 Months: During this stage your baby will gain better head control and have better movement of arms and legs. They generally grip onto anything they can get their hands on and put it directly into their mouth. Educational toys like rattles promote motor development and provide sensory stimulation. Since everything ends up in the mouth, educational toys that are chewable or soft plush are favorites. Babies need to experience different textures so vary the materials educational toys are made of. Activity centers provide lots of stimulation at this age. These educational toys normally have lots of buttons that produce sounds, lights, and give a variety of textures to explore. Hand-eye coordination will improve as babies explore the activity center. Parents are often on the move more with babies at this age. Activity bars that fit across a stroller, car seat, or bouncy chair that have dangling, squeaky toys and mirrors keep baby stimulated while on the move. Motor skills develop as baby reaches, hits, pulls, and kicks at the accessories on these educational toys.
Suggested toys for this age: Tummy Play Trainer, Curiosity Cube, Toe Time Infant Car Toy, Musical Arch 'N Play, Jungle Pals Pushchair Arch.
6 to 12 Months: Your baby has much better control over arm and leg movement. By 9 to 10 months, your baby should be able to move around by some means- either pulling, crawling, or scooting. By 12 months they should be able to stand by themselves and many will even start walking. Educational toys including wooden blocks that baby can stack and knock down, throw, or bang together to make noise are good choices. By 12 months, educational wooden blocks can be used for early construction play to promote development of motor skills, cause and effect, sensory and visual stimulation. Educational toys like the Sensory Ball from Edushape, provides great stimulation with different textures. Once babies learn to sit up, they will enjoy rolling a ball and trying to catch it as you roll it back. Letting your baby chase the ball will encourage movement. Trying to figure out why a square block won't go through a round opening will help develop problem solving skills- though it may cause some frustration in the beginning. By the time your baby is 12 months, they will start to enjoy stacking activities, though they will need help in trying to get the right order. More interest in books will be noticeable now. Try to buy books that have pages with different textures and simple flaps. This will help to develop their sense of touch.
Suggested toys for this age: Frog in the Box, Activity Cube, Farm Friends Stacker, Soft Books, Hug a Bug, Textured Blocks.
1 to 2 years: With each step your baby becomes more independent and confident. Little ones at this age spend every waking hour exploring and experimenting. For those still a bit unsteady walking, educational toys that promote mobility such as a walker or push car are great choices. Pushcarts and wagons are a great way for children to tote things around- another favorite activity at this age. Educational toys including soft plush toys and dolls remain favorites at this age. Children often become very attached to one or two and use them in creative play. Toddlers can find many ways to make loud sounds. Musical instruments like drums, maracas, and tambourines are educational toys that will help them learn to appreciate music while they make noise. Inset puzzles require toddlers to lift out pieces and find the right places to put them back. These first puzzles improve problem skills and fine tune motor skills. Puzzles are educational toys that your children will play with over and over again.
Suggested toys for this age: 4 in 1 Walker, Galt Wooden Baby Walker, Little Hands Music Band, Mini Edublocks, First Blocks, Baby Puzzles, Wooden Shaped Puzzles, First Puzzles.
2 to 3 Years: Your toddler's motor skills are now well developed. They can run, jump, and climb. The area of explosive development in this stage is speech and language. Imaginative play becomes the focus for this age group. Educational toys that children use as props in pretend play help build language and communication skills. Great educational toy choices for this age include character toys, puppets, dolls, toy vehicles, and animal figures. These educational toys foster creativity and imagination by allowing your child to create wonderful adventures, model adult behavior, and role-play. Large piece puzzles are great educational toys for this age. Children at this age should be able to complete a 4 to 6 piece puzzle on their own. Puzzles are a great activity to build hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and fine motor skills.
Suggested toys for this age: Table and Chairs, Wooden Stacking Train, Airport Blocks, Maggie's Friends, Shaped Puzzles, Play and Learn Puzzles.