Ananth is a doctor, on his residency training as a pediatrician.
Our kids always look forward to the fun filled Play time. Its a golden opportunity to bond with our kids. It gives us ample opportunity to engage with our kids in ask and answer exchanges also known as 'back and forth interactions'. 'Play time' has an important role in early child development.
‘Toys’ as instruments facilitate these learning interactions, toys are not ‘just playthings’ anymore.
A toy- could be any object intended for a child’s play. It could be hand made, bought from a store or found in nature.
Toys foster the development of kids in all the four domains:
- Physical or Motor
- Language Skill
Types of toys:
Toys for symbolic play or pretend play- dolls, action figures, cars, cooking and feeding implements.
Toys that involve fine motor activities, adaptive play or manipulative play- blocks, shapes, puzzles, and trains.
Toys in art-making — clay and coloring.
Toys involving language or concepts- card games, toy letters, and board games.
Toys that involve gross motor activities or physical activity- large toy cars, tricycles, and push and pull toys.
Toys are a means that facilitate interactions between your toddler and you. Play based interactions have to be rich in language, pretend-play, problem-solving, reciprocity, cooperation, and creativity to provide a learning environment requisite for development. It is these engaging interactions having back and forth exchanges between toddler and parents that lead to learning associated with them.
We are facing a bigger challenge in choosing the right toys for our toddlers. The technological advance has poured in a wide range of newer toys marketed as ‘educational toys’. we should be wary of this digital media based virtual toys which replace physical interaction.
Early childhood development is essential in getting your kid ‘school ready’. Play responsible for this development is a pre-step for education.
We should keep in focus that the physical interaction with the parents or caregivers around the toys is responsible for the learning process.
Just the ‘toy’ by itself will not educate your toddler. A twig or a flower which increases these interactions is a better-educating apparatus than a 1000$ virtual screen that takes away these interactions.
American Academy of Pediatrics in its guidelines for appropriate toys says:
“toys that are most likely to facilitate development are those that are most enjoyable and productively used for play together with an engaged caregiver because in such contexts play with toys is likely to include rich language experiences, reciprocal verbal interactions, and scaffolding”
Electronic media-based games are notorious for displacing this play based interactions between toddlers and parents. They reduce cognitive, language and gross motor activities.
Increase in electronic media play leads to a significant decrease in time spent on physical play and play based on toys.
Safety considerations while choosing toys:
Avoid small toys or toys with parts that dislodge easily. These can be ingested in an infant’s or toddler’s mouth blocking their airway.
Avoid toys with loose string, rope, ribbons, or cord.
Toys with button batteries or magnets have to be handled with caution and always under supervision. Accidental ingestion of these small parts can be fatal.
Make sure that toys are not made up of toxic materials.
Periodic washing of toys is a must. Germs accumulated on the toys lead to infections. Choose toys that can be washed regularly.
The most important role of ‘play’ in early childhood is to facilitate warm social interactions and build relationships.
Best of the toys are simple and provide ample opportunities for the toddler to make use of their imagination.Choose affordable toys that are developmentally appropriate for your toddler. Toys need not be expensive.
Join your toddler and make those sand castles and paper planes, let your kid’s imagination fly!