Kids learn in different ways during different times of their development. What was exciting and interesting to a child at age two may become boring when they turn four. Trying to find play items that intrigue and stimulate a child can be difficult. There are thousands of choices on the toy aisles, each one claiming to be the best.
And parents aren't the only ones making the decisions. As kids age, they want a part in the selection process. TV advertisements and peer pressure push children into demanding "must-have" toys, even if they're not age appropriate. And as most parents quickly discern, the most popular toys are usually the most expensive and the hardest to find.
Most toys come with an age recommendation. This recommendation is based on a number of factors, including the age of the child, the expected motor skills, and the level of maturity. However, age labeling should be taken with a grain of salt. Kids mature at different rates, so it's important to think about your child's capabilities when selecting a toy.
Here are some guidelines and suggestions for choosing age-appropriate toys:
- Birth to 1 Year: Children of this age do not really play, but they are intrigued by shapes, colors, and anything that makes a sound. Soft stuffed animals, squeaky bath toys, and large, colorful balls will intrigue these new little people. Lay your child on a quilt and place an "activity gym" over him. These gyms have dangling toys that will catch his eye, and he will try to grab or kick them, teaching him to use his developing muscles. Children of this age love to be held, so settle down with some cloth or vinyl books and introduce her to the world of reading.
- Ages 1 - 3: As every parent knows, children go mobile at this age, and their toys need to be mobile as well. Also remember, that toddlers play next to other children, rather than with other children, so keep that in mind when selecting age-appropriate toys. Some great choices for this age group include walking toys that kids can push, like baby carriages or small grocery carts. Children in this age group are starting to work on their motor skills, so plenty of paper and thick crayons are essential. Pounding toys are very popular (unfortunately!), and trucks and dolls are often the toy of choice. It is at this age that little people want to mimic big people, so pretend kitchens and toy telephones can make them feel just like mom and dad.
- BiAges 3 - 5: It's time to hit the road, so a tricycle is a great gift for this age group. Motor skills continue to be on the upswing, so buy puzzles with large pieces, and introduce them to safety scissors and simple crafts. Little girls will like to dress up and have tea, while little boys will spend hours moving cars around a track. This is the age where fads take hold, so be prepared to start a collection of whatever is hot.
- Age 5 - 9: Peer pressure hits this age group with a force, and parents will find that only particular toys are acceptable. Itâ€™s important to keep them learning, so make certain they have computer games and sports equipment. More complicated crafts can be introduced, and that full-fledged bicycle will require a sturdy helmet. There are age-appropriate science kits available, and kids will love to strap on outdoor gear and go exploring.
No matter the age, remember that safety is the key. Is the child mature enough to handle and understand the toy? While a child may want what's pitched in the latest TV ad campaign, buying age-appropriate toys is the best way to insure that your child will have a fun, interesting, and safe childhood.