Toys are more than just things to keep your child occupied; they help boost a child’s motor, language, social, and cognitive skills. Dr. Victoria Dominique Ang, a developmental pediatrician at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan, recommends that you stock your toddler’s toy shelf with the following:
Blocks are good for developing fine motor skills. “Your child can also be creative with them and use them to pretend to build all sorts of things like a tower, a train or a bridge,” Dr. Ang says. “Later on, they can also be used to teach different concepts such as colors and numbers.”
Crayons don’t just teach colors. “Don’t forget to give them paper or coloring books. As toddlers, they are not yet expected to be able to color within the lines. Their scribbles are already good for developing those coordination skills,” assures Dr. Ang.
Picture books are excellent for developing all domains of development. “Read to your child, point out pictures, and let your child point to and talk about the pictures, too. Aside from helping with language development, the experience of having a parent read to him/her also helps with social and emotional development,” reminds Dr. Ang.
There’s a reason play schools have bubble time. “Your child will enjoy blowing, chasing, and popping them. If you and your child blow bubbles together, they will also be good for developing social interaction,” says Dr. Ang.
Rolling, throwing, bouncing and kicking balls help develop gross motor skills.
Musical toys like the drum, tambourine, or toy keyboard can be interesting to a toddler. “You can even improvise them, such as by using toy pots and pans. You can also play games like singing or clapping in time to the drum or tambourine,” shares Dr. Ang.
Toddlers will also benefit from push/pull toys like cars and wagons, as these can help develop gross motor skills.
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Toys that encourage pretend play, like dolls; toy spoon, fork, plate, kitchen utensils; cars (simple toy cars that they can push, not remote controlled ones); toy animals; hand and finger puppets.
Toys that encourage constructive play (or play where they build something). “These don't have to be expensive,” reminds Dr. Ang. “Shape sorters or interlocking blocks are good.”
10. Toys that can help establish routines. “Toddlers respond to having routines. It helps with their behavior and helps to calm them down. Examples are a spoon, plate, and cup that they can use during mealtimes in learning to feed themselves; a rubber or plastic toy they can bring during bath time; a stuffed animal or blanket that can be comforting as part of a bedtime routine,” says Dr. Ang.
Finally, the best toy for your child comes free and yet is the most priceless -- you! “There is nothing that sparks a child's interest more, and that promotes learning and development in all domains, more than being with a parent. The time before a child turns 3 is the critical period for language development. Studies show that kids whose parents talk more with them also have better language development. Talk with your child about everything—when you're eating, while you're giving her a bath, and during your everyday activities. When you're outside, point out the things you see and encourage him to point out things to you, too,” advises Dr. Ang.
Photos by Lai de Guzman (except where indicated otherwise)