Children are naturally curious and learn through play, especially during the initial years of their life. Formal education comes in much later. Babies as young as newborns constantly explore and absorb their surroundings. Their senses are stimulated by the smallest of sounds, smells, textures, colors, shapes, and tastes. Even the toys they play with during this time are more of learning tools than mere play objects.
Play is a serious thing for babies as it teaches them to move, communicate, and explore their surroundings. It is quite essential for their early childhood development. Toys such as rattles, stuffed animals, balls, and blocks, all play an important role in developing their motor skills, learning logic, expanding their vocabulary, and more. Different types of toys stimulate their mind and help in developing cognitive function. Most parents would agree that children can play with almost anything—starting from empty cartons to kitchen utensils. While you may wonder why your child prefers playing with a laundry basket over the new teddy bear you got them last week, what they fancy are the new experiences and learning opportunities an object offers to them. Therefore, it is very important to consciously choose the right age-appropriate toys for your baby that can help them in their early childhood development. Here are some best toys for the cognitive development of children in different age groups.
Toys for Infants Up to The Age of 6 Months
Babies aged up to six months love looking around and absorbing stimuli offered by the world around them. They are attracted by certain smells such as that of their mother, colorful objects such as crib mobiles, and sounds such as that of rattles. At this age, children are fascinated by what their hands and feet can do.
Keep these things in your mind when choosing toys that help with cognitive development among babies in this age group. Here are some best toy options for this age group:
Baby Gym Mats
A baby gym mat is the most ideal toy for babies younger than six months as they spend most of their time lying on their back. These mats come with colourful hanging toys such as small stuffed animals, rattles, and other toys that keep the baby engaged for a long time. The gym mat encourages the baby to reach out to these toys and explore their textures and sounds.
Sensory Ball Toys
These soft and stimulating toys help baby practice holding and strengthening their grip while exploring different textures.
Rattle and Teether Toys
Rattles are a great way for babies to learn how to use their hands. Holding and making sounds with a rattle teaches them about action and its effect, and allows them to connect with their surroundings.
Hanging a mobile above your baby’s cot gives them something to look at and reach out for. This helps in developing motor skills. Interactive books and toys that play recorded poems and rhymes are also good cognitive development toys for infants. This helps them with early vocabulary development.
Toys for 7 to 12-Month-Old Babies
Babies in this age group can roll over, sit, crawl, and eventually stand. Also, they can understand their name and know common words such as the names of their body parts, things in the kitchen, food items, and more. Hence, you must choose smart toys that can engage their senses and encourage these developments.
Some of the best children's toys for cognitive development among babies of this age group are:
- Stuffed Toys: Stuffed toys and dolls with smiling faces have a positive effect on your child’s mental and emotional well-being. They don’t just look good but also encourage your child to be imaginative and think creatively.
- Big Blocks: Blocks are one of the best brain development toys for babies in this age group. The blocks help babies develop a three-dimensional sense, math skills, hand-and-eye coordination, and problem-solving abilities.
- Push-Pull Toys: Push and pull-along toys may seem old-fashioned but they have a significant impact on early childhood care and education. These toys help in developing whole-body coordination and also encourage them to move about boosting their motor skills.
Toys for 1 to 2-Year-Old Babies
Children between the ages of one and two years enjoy playing with toys that make use of their motor skills and respond to their actions. Children often say their first words at this age and can play with others.
Some of the best toys for brain development at this age are:
- Stacking Toys: Toys such as stacking bowls, ring towers, and nesting cups encourage toddlers to work on their motor skills and build things. This helps strengthen their spatial skills.
- Dolls and Toy Replicas of Real-Life Objects: Children must think creatively, and for that, they need things that encourage them to play role-play games. Give your child stuffed toys, dolls, doll houses, doll-sized furniture, dress-up accessories such as purses and scarves, toy cars, garage play models, and cars with tracks. This will allow them to figure out how these toys work and how they are related to each other, boosting their imagination.
- Board Books: It is never too early to introduce your child to books. While they may not be able to read at this age, giving your child board books familiarises them with the concept of reading. Look for books with bright pictures and illustrations, and less text.
- Musical Instruments: Toy drums, maracas, tambourines, and keyboards are great infant toys for cognitive development. They are sturdy enough to withstand a child’s rough handling and have multiple cognitive benefits. Musical instruments are known to improve moods, reduce stress, boost concentration, and strengthen memory.
- Crayons and Markers: Being able to express themselves is an important part of early childhood care and education. Give your child non-toxic crayons and markers to do so. Also, make sure to give them large sheets of paper to create their works of art.
Toys for 2 to 3-Year-Old Children
Toddlers in this age group are ready to discover the world around them. They are testing their physical limits and gaining control over their hands and fingers. In addition to the toys they are used to playing with, some of the best toys for child development during this phase are:
- Ride-on Toys: Children of this age group are learning how to control their movements. Rocking horses that they can ride on, low climbers, and large balls they can kick around are great ways to exercise large muscles responsible for great motor skills. If you’re thinking of tricycles, wait till your child is at least three-years-old.
- Construction Sets: Blocks will continue to amaze 2 to 3-year-old toddlers. By this time, they are ready to graduate to smaller blocks. You can also give them construction sets with step-by-step instructions on building simple things.
- Wood Puzzles: Puzzles help in building finger strength and problem-solving skills. It also teaches toddlers to be patient. At this age, they can handle puzzles with 4-12 pieces and blocks that snap together.
- Picture and Sound Books: You can also introduce books with more details and sound buttons in them. From the simple board books that feature pictures of objects, move on to books with pictures of scenes that your child can ideate on. Also, having storybooks with textures and sounds will help your child connect with the objects and characters in the book.
Toys for 4 to 5-Year-Old Children
Toys by age for this group are also known as toys for preschoolers. By now, your child can stay focused on tasks for longer and asks a lot of questions. They want to experiment with things and enjoy playing with friends. By now, they will have their favourite characters from cartoons and storybooks and would like to play with theme-based figurines such as princesses and superheroes. These help in cognitive development in early childhood. Some good toys for 4 to 5-year-old children are:
- Craft Kits: Children at this age enjoy making things. It boosts their confidence and gives them opportunities to be creative. Play-doh is a great toy for children of this age. Look for craft kits that give children a goal to work towards.
- Books with Short Stories: Though your child isn’t reading as yet, they will begin to identify letters and match sounds to these letters. This is the time to introduce elaborate storybooks and read them at bedtime. This helps in expanding their vocabulary and developing interest in reading.
- Board Games: Children can be introduced to simple board games that they can play with their friends. Look for games that don’t involve reading. Ludo, snakes and ladders, and hungry hippos are good examples.
- Activity Games: Children of this age have a lot of energy. Introducing activity games can help them burn this energy. These games also help in developing socially appropriate behaviour. You can play games such as ‘the floor is lava’, ‘hopscotch’, or twister.
- Educational Games: Preschoolers also enjoy games that teach them basic reading, math, and phonic skills. Many of these games are presented in the form of computerised toys with interactive graphics that keep children engaged while helping them learn. You must make sure your child doesn’t spend too much time on these toys and balances time with other activities too.
Right toys and games boost a child’s cognitive development at all stages. Babies and toddlers build motor skills, develop cognitive function, learn socially-appropriate behaviour, practice creative thinking, and try their hands at problem-solving through play. While buying toys for children, be careful to pick safe, blunt-edged toys that do not pose choking hazards. Also, avoid toys made with toxic materials or colours.
Playtime is a great time for parents and caregivers to bond with their children. This strengthens the parent-child relationship and makes your baby feel secure. You can use this time to do screen-free activities that enable your child to make the most of the skills and talents they are born with. If you are looking for effective activities-based programmes to help your child build a strong foundation for learning and hone their skills, then Raising Superstars has exactly what you need. With us, allow your child a chance at success early on.