When it comes to how our children spend their time, we want to ensure what they’re playing with is enriching their growth and development. As the holidays approach, you may be asking yourself “what toys or games should I purchase that embrace learning and development in children?” We have you covered! Read on to learn about different areas of development and goals to consider when picking out toys for the kiddos on your list.
Embrace Learning and Development Through Play
Children learn through play and active exploration, as it provides a natural, comfortable environment where they can adapt and engage without the stressors of tabletop tasks. While play is exciting for children, it also opens a wide variety of opportunities to target speech, language, and occupational therapy goals. Below are different areas of development to consider when searching for the perfect gift, as well as ideas about how you can initiate and encourage these skills when playing with your child.
How Play Encourages Areas of Development
Through active gross motor exploration children develop balance, coordination, and the ability to safely time movements through space. Sensory motor activities provide enriched sensations to help children regulate their activity levels, such as play tents and tunnels. Additionally, they can develop balance and timing with ride-on toys, scooters, hippity hops, and pogo sticks.
Imaginative and Pretend Play:
Imagination and pretend play are essential to creativity and learning. Little People playsets, dress-up clothes, play kitchens, and work benches embrace learning and development via pretend play. Through pretend play you can target sequencing, describing, and answering “wh”- questions. Pretend play also allows for the opportunity to use parallel talk with your children who are just acquiring language. Narrate what your child is doing in play! You may not realize it, but you are providing them with rich language input that may carry over into future play schemes.
Fine Motor Coordination, Visual Perception:
Hand skills develop rapidly in preschool children and are essential for success with academic skills and daily life skills such as dressing. Many games develop fine motor skills and perception of shape and size. Fine motor development, including hand strengthening and the separation of fingers, is important for higher-level skills such as writing. Games like Honeybee Tree, Cranium, Cupcake Party, Perfection, Quirkle, Mousetrap, Jenga and Spot it!.
Hand-eye coordination skills unite visual and motor skills into one. Games that help coordinate the eyes, hands, and body include Elefun, Burger Mania, Air hockey, Beamo flying disc, and Nerf games.
Toys that involve building and construction help develop the ability to visualize what something will look like once complete (Duplos/Legos, Magnetiles, K’Nex, Tinker Toys). The same skills can be developed in younger children by providing common objects to build with, such as blocks, boxes, blankets, and pillows. In addition to spatial planning, toys that involve building also tap into executive functioning skills. Future thinking, planning, organization, and task monitoring are all critical components of these tasks.
Figuring out how to resolve problems is an essential life skill. In both structured and unstructured play children learn about working together, resolving conflicts, and winning or losing. Many games such as Race to the Roof, 3-D Labyrinth, Checkers, Mastermind, and Blokus encourage strategizing. In addition, many imaginative play schemes foster problem-solving skills.