Best Toys for Tots This Holiday Season
Holiday time is here and there is increasing advertisements and marketing directed at parents and children about what are the best toys and must haves this season. In addition, your kids will be asking and pleading for the latest or most updated tech games or apps that their friends have or want as well. There is also is a lot of pressure and guilt around this time of year to make you feel the more you spend on gifts and toys, the happier your child will be. As a pediatrician and mom, I am hear to tell you differently.
Toys are really a tool, that can be used to help bring meaningful interactions between you and your child that can foster language skills, motor skills and social-emotional development. These are very important aspects of play, more so than one gets from electronic, battery operated toys and so called “educational apps” for babies. Most of these claims are unsubstantiated, with little or no scientific evidence, particular in young infants, and may be potentially harmful if used in excess.
Here are some tips for choosing toys for your little ones
1. Think old school. Remember when you were young, you had the animal farm, or doll house that didn’t have a working doorbell or a battery operated cow that said moo. You had to act it out yourself. This pretend play helps with creativity and imagination instead of quick reinforcement from electric generated sounds.
2. Books are always beneficial. Whether you are reading to your child or they are at an age they can start reading simple books, this activity not only helps with language and vocabulary but also a great way to bond with your child.
3. Spark the imagination and creativity. Manipulatives like blocks, legos, playdoh, markers, and age appropriate crafts can grow with your child as their skills progress. Also pretend play with kitchen sets, trucks, and cars can help kids simulate actions they see around them.
4. Bored? Try a Board game. Board games are great for turn taking, following directions, and social interactions. Again, I prefer to look for non- electronic versions. This way you don’t have to worry about replacing batteries or even the real dangers of accidental ingestion of batteries.
5. Be active- Kids should not be sitting still most of the day. They don’t necessarily need organized sports at a young age, but they should be moving. Various size balls, ride on toys, pull toys, all keep kids exercising and stretching during playtime.
6. Less is more. Kids get so overwhelmed when they have too many toys to play with or to choose from. I suggest rotating toys that are in view every few weeks so an old action figure may seem novel again and a puzzle will seem exciting if they haven’t put it together for some time.
7. Be mindful of screen time. Earlier is not better when it comes to electronic media exposure. Don’t get sucked in to the hype about early infant learning with 2 dimensional screens. Babies need positive parenting and caregiver interactions to foster important brain connections for optimal learning. So limit screen time (video/ computers games/ phone apps) to less than an hour for children 2 years or older. Children younger than 5 years old (toddlers and preschoolers) make sure its developmentally appropriate and preferable with adult supervision.