At first glance, stacking toys — also called nesting toys — may seem like simple tools for play. But stacking and organizing is actually a natural part of child development — just like when they’re filling up containers and dumping its contents, stacking allows babies to understand and discover the world around them.
Mom Christine Musa, a member of our Facebook group, Smart Parenting Village, shares that stacking cups is one of her 14-month-old daughter Bleu’s favorite activities. Through her research, she discovered that “marami palang benefits ang cup stacking for cognitive development kasi it mainly targets specific areas of the body and the brain to increase intelligence, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking.”
What babies learn from stacking toys
Exploring and experimenting with the objects around them allows babies to learn new concepts such as cause and effect. Stacking helps them figure out what goes together, how things move, and how they can affect their environment. It introduces them to shapes and spatial relationships — “under”, “on,” and “around” — according to What to Expect. It also aids in improving their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and language skills.
Here are 5 ways stacking toys can help in brain building.
Improves fine motor skills
Picking items up and putting them in place teaches young kids about intentional grasp and release, according to Debra C. Lowsky, founder of ARK Therapeutic and a speech and language pathologist based in the United States.
“Since infants don’t have the dexterity or fine motor control yet, they use their entire hands to explore, hold, release, and place objects,” she explains in her blog. “This means that larger, chunky shapes are just the right size for little ones to grasp.” She suggests letting your child start with the biggest pieces and then progressing to the smaller ones.
Understands visual and spatial perception
Nesting toys also help your toddlers understand spatial relationships or the way things fit with one another in a certain space. It’s a skill that will allow them to understand mathematical concepts when they grow older.
Provides an opportunity for crossing midline
Crossing midline is the ability for the right hand to cross over the center of the body to function on the left side, and vice versa, according to Lowsky. It’s an important skill needed for handwriting, cutting with scissors, reading, eating, and any other activity where the hand needs to move from left to right or right to left.
To practice this, Lowsky suggests putting the toys on the left side of your child’s body, by their left hip. Have your child reach over with the right hand — only — to grab a toy and then put it down in front of them or to their right.
Anything and everything is an opportunity to improve your child’s language skills. As they play with their stacking toys, you can teach them new words and concepts by using descriptions — point out the small pieces and compare them with the big ones. What colors are they? Do they feel rough or smooth? You can also use this as an opportunity to work on matching, counting, and arranging from top to bottom (or vice-versa).
Christine shares that she introduces new “challenges” to Bleu whenever she plays with her stacking cups, like stacking cups in arranged order or stacking cups at random. Lowsky shares that kids will naturally think outside the box, so encourage them to make up a game with the stacking toys, create stories, or play with the toys in different ways.
Looking for toys that can help with brain development? Click here for a list of open-ended toys that will grow with your child.