Q. My Son is 16 months and with just so many toys available I really don’t know what is best for him developmentally. I would really appreciate some advice on the best sensory toys you would suggest for this age group?
A. Thank you for your question. I frequently get asked advice on best sensory toys during my workshops for parents. As you say there is so much choice and expensive does not necessarily mean the toy is better in terms of facilitating your son’s development.
The first thing I would like to say is, children love to play that is what they do. Toys can be very enriching to a child’s life, helping the development process.
I have put together some considerations I hope you will find useful when you are going toy shopping. The information will help you pick the best sensory toys for your son regardless of your son’s age or availability of toys.
• Consider what development stage your son is at. Remember all children develop at different rates.
• Playing is how your son develops and learns new skills which in turn will develop the skills required for preschool and later school readiness
• What play value does the toy offer? This means does the toy encourage your son to look at, concentrate on and try and engage purposefully with the toy.
• Is the toy visually attractive and offer sound when moved? ( This is especially important for children under one year old ) Your son will be encouraged to look at and visually focus on the toy thus helping your son to then interact with the toy.
• Check the quality of the toy. This means the toy will be more durable and will withstand the banging and throwing that goes with play.
• Examine the toy very carefully for any potential parts that can be removed. Be vigilant about parts which can be removed, put in a child’s mouth and cause choking. You will be amazed at how children seem to have the ability to get these parts off and always straight into the mouth.
• Check the toy for the safety standard mark. This will ensure the toy is safe in terms of non-toxic, baby safe materials.
• If a toy is too basic or too advanced in terms of your son’s developmental readiness, he will get no benefit from the toy.
Below I recommend some toys which are great for a 16 month old. The toys can be purchased from Mothercare.
Some tips when using the above toys.
• When playing with shapes, you pick the shape out. Encourage your son to pick shape up, turn around and fit it correctly. Play with form boards first ( shape insert board.) before progressing on to 2-3 piece jigsaw. Also say name of object, match the object to the picture. Great for encouraging communication skills, hand skills and concept development.
• Sand and water play. Pouring, filling up, digging, hiding objects. Encouraging exploring with hands, sensory skills, social and communication skills development.
• Hand paints. Great for pre drawing skills
• Building blocks. You build 2 – 3 blocks, encourage your son to copy. Great for early development of construction skills and communication skills.
Remember toys are there to facilitate learning and at all times the experience should be fun. It is also important you son is ready and able to play. Tuning into your son’s cues, needs and responding appropriately are vitally important. I discuss this in my workshop as a child whose cues are misread will get no positive learning experience from playing.
Q. My daughter is 6 months old. My family are looking for suggestions as to what to buy her for Christmas. Have you any suggestions as when I give her some of the toys I feel she is not ready to play with them yet. She has lots of cuddly toys, so I was hoping for some ideas?
A .With Christmas approaching this is a great time to give ideas to others on what to buy your daughter. It also helps eliminate the expense and as I said in the previous answer expensive toys does not mean they are developmentally better.
Your daughter is now ready to explore toys in a more purposeful manner. So now it is an ideal time to get her some toys which she can have fun playing with and at the same time facilitate her development. Again developmental readiness is vital.
It is important to note your daughter will tire very easily, now that she is sitting up independently, using her little muscles and beginning to explore her little world. Tuning into her cues are vital at this stage if you want her to optimise her learning experiences in a positive way. The above I discuss in my workshops and is a great way to help you understand your daughter needs and respond appropriately.
Below I recommend some toys which are great for a six month old and again they can be purchased from Mothercare.
Some tips when playing with the above toys.
• The Bugs activity book is great for encouraging your daughter to explore with her hands and develop early communication skills. You point to the picture, say the word, make the sounds and exaggerate your facial expressions.
• Visual toys such as the rainmaker is great for encouraging your daughter to concentrate whilst improving her sitting skills and using her hands, then as an incentive to move into rolling and then into crawling.
• When your daughter does start crawling, strip her down to her nappy so there are no restrictions especially around her hips or knees. Encourage her to crawl over different textures, over and under and remember to supervise closely.
• During this period encourage lots of Tummy Time. This will facilitate development of skills needed for successful rolling, crawling and later walking. The mirror and jungle mat for great for Tummy Time play. Do remember to Tune into your daughters cues and if she shows any distress remove her from the Tummy Time position and try again later.