With so many different toys on the market it is not surprising that choosing a toy for a baby, toddler or child can become unnecessarily confusing. It seems that unless a toy can buzz, flash, beep and grab your attention in some kind of weird and wonderful way then it is in danger of no longer deserving its shelf space. So where does this leave the traditional toys of yesteryear? Have things moved on so far that they no longer have any educational value? Have they finally past their sell by date?
To answer this question it is important to understand the basics of newborn, toddler and child development.
Cognitive development focuses on how children learn and process information. The development of the mind involves language, mental imagery, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and memory development. All of these are skills which need to be learned by the child as cognitive development is not an automatic process. Colour and shape sorters, stackers and puzzles are ideal tools to help develop cognitive skills from an early age as well as eye-hand coordination. Whilst there are many fine examples of modern, battery operated toys suited to developing these skills you can’t beat the simple traditional educational wooden toys that have been around for years.
Fine Motor skills
Fine Motor skills can be defined as small muscle movements: those that occur in detailed hand to eye coordination such as picking a small object up from the floor. Teaching fine motor skills requires patience and understanding. They also take time and practice to acquire and are built upon four key skills: Grasping/holding objects, reaching out to objects, releasing objects deliberately, and rotating the wrist in different directions. Excellent traditional wooden toys to develop fine motor skills include shape sorters, playing with wooden puppets or dolls, and wooden puzzles.
Gross Motor skills
Gross Motor skills involve the larger muscles in the arms, legs and body, for example to walk, run, throw, lift and kick. These skills also relate to body awareness, reaction, speed, balance and strength. Traditional toys which help stimulate gross motor development include toys with hammers such as ball pounders or diy sets, skipping ropes and ride on toys.
As a child develops from being a baby through its toddler years it is important that it acquires good social skills and what better way to learn these than through imaginative role play both independently and with other children. Ideal toys to encourage this important aspect of development include child friendly equivalents of all kinds of domestic tools that mum, dad and other carers use around the house, or elsewhere, such as wooden kitchen equipment, tool boxes, musical instruments, phones, tills etc.
In conclusion a good toy will stimulate the sense of sight, sound, and touch and help cultivate motor, social, and cognitive skills as well as eye-hand coordination. And, the old favorite traditional wooden toys can stand proudly next to their modern counterparts in helping with baby, toddler and child development. And, what is more, they won’t cost a fortune in batteries to maintain!