discovery toys blog of billie elias
Tips for parents who play with their children or who want stay-at-home income.
Toys for special need, autism, gifted and typical kids.

July 14, 2009

"Just Right" Toys

When children play, it is their work. It is how they learn. Since parents are their child's first and best teacher, it can be useful to know how to choose "just right" toys.

A good toy should stimulate all the senses so that every part of the brain gets wired. Sensory, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, language development, social and emotional skills and creativity are all developmental goals that can be reached through the right toys. [If your child has a weakness in any of these areas, your OT, PT, speech pathologist or an online search can help you to select toys that will help.] A good toy should also encourage the natural process of discovery and create a positive learning environment. A toy that provides open-ended play -- no right or wrong way to play with it -- will build your child's self-esteem.

Stage by Stage
Infants learn through their senses. Sight, sound, scent, color, taste and texture are all new stimuli in a brand new world. Talk, sing and cuddle with your baby as you share each new experience. Since it's never too early to read to your baby, you can start bonding by snuggling your baby in your lap and looking at a fabric book or board book together. (e.g. Baby Bear's Bedtime of Ladybug's Lesson). Say the words that go with the picture you see. Use inflections in your voice to make each picture come alive for him. This will create precious moments for both of you and start him on the path to becoming a lifelong reader.

Starting at about age one, you may introduce letters, numbers, and basic skills such as matching and stacking. (Go Go Caterpillar shows baby just a few numbers and letters. Measure Up Cups are numbered from 1 to 12. Toppling and stacking, dump and fill, learning size relationships of big or small, color sorting are all activities that your child is ready for at the toddler stage. (Again, Measure Up Cups to the rescue...they do it all!) Object permanence is also learned around this time through games like peek-a-boo or a jack-in-the-box. That teaches toddlers that although mommy may leave to go out shopping, she's not gone forever, and she will come back! (Use something like My Busy Day to play the shell game).

Some toddlers are frustrated by not yet being verbal. You may recall the young child actor who played opposite Grandpa Robert DeNiro in "Meet the Fockers." He had learned "Baby Signs," sign language for babies to use. There are products on the market today to teach your young child the way to communicate that he is thirsty even before he speaks. I still have a couple Baby Signs in stock. Email me at

Toys that encourage and provide exploration/experimentation build a strong foundation for thinking, learning and problem-solving. Building blocks, shape-sorters (Sunshine Market), beginning puzzles (Place & Trace) are all good choices for enhancing early math confidence.

Typically, children will begin speaking at around age two. Engage your child in conversation as they begin to explore new concepts and develop logical thinking skills. Introduce animals, letter sounds, and feelings at this age. Visual discrimination and pattern recognition developed through puzzles and sorting games will lead to pre-reading.

By preschool, your child will be creating and building with construction toys and other manipulatives to enhance their math skills. Imaginary or pretend play with puppets and costumes is starting at this time. Storytelling and social skills go hand-in-hand. (Topsy Turvy dolls) Playing games that involve taking turns also enable social skills to form.
(AB Seas, Number Hunt, Zingo)

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