Must Have Toys for Skill Development in Babies
In continuation of our piece on simplifying skill development in babies, we have compiled a list of toys and resources to encourage development of these skills.
It is not an exhaustive list but to guide you answer the question:
“What toy should I get for a child of X years?”
While we have compiled them according to a specific skill, some of these toys also aid in developing multiple skills at the same time.
Babies begin their journey in the new world by learning through their sensory systems and understanding the new environment, the people around and so on. Sensory development is one of the first skills to develop in a baby and very important for the overall development of the child.
Toys to encourage Hearing
Getting them Rattles help in their sensory (hearing) development as they are fascinated by the sounds they produce and follow the path of the rattle with their eyes.
These are a great option to use for sensory play and at the same time a cute accessory for their fun engagement.
- You can keep upgrading your toy basket and their hearing ability by getting them a rolling rattle once they are old enough to crawl or Tie a soft rattle to their play gym for active engagement.
Toys to help develop Touch and Feel
Sensory toys like Play silks are a great option to engage and sooth a baby.
Also, during teething, babies tend to put everything within their reach. This is the time to introduce some child-safe teethers, preferably Neem wood teethers that aid in the teething process.
Sensory mats or Foam Mats are great options for their tummy time and to develop the sensory skills in babies.
For 3 year olds and above, kids love messy play and play dough made with non-toxic and safe ingredients are the one to look for.
Sensory Rice or Sand:
When a kid plays with the Sensory rice or the kinetic sand, they are sure to have a whole lot of fun and get the ultimate sensory experience.
Tip: While the kid is busy having fun with the Play dough or the kinetic sand, we have to be mindful enough to keep them under adult supervision.
Toys to improve vision in babies:
Introducing High Contrast Flash Cards with Black & White patterns attract your infant’s attention and encourage movement and muscle development in their hands & feet.
By the time they are 6 months old they start recognising their family members and you can introduce Books with Big pictures and colourful objects.
Play Gym with big figures is sure to amaze your baby with their different colours and structures.
Taste and Smell
Newborns are born with a full set of taste glands, although it takes a few years for these glands to develop fully. They can already taste sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes. This sense is closely linked to smell and is also developed in the womb by 28 weeks.
For the first few months of the baby, mother’s milk is the only food that is given to the baby. While there are no specific ‘toys’ for this skill, you can slowly wean your child by introducing solids after consulting with your paediatrician. Gradually include foods with different flavours and textures for the kid to identify and differentiate between the tastes.
Gross Motor Skills
These skills help the baby to perform activities that require the whole body movement and Larger muscles of their body. There are many toys that aid in developing these skills, some of them are listed below for you.
Toys that improve Gross motor skills:
When the babies have just started to crawl, getting them a rolling rattle will encourage movement and improve gross motor skills.
Trampolines/ Hula Hoops:
For preschoolers, you could get them a Trampoline, or a skipping jump rope, Hula Hoops, or any toy that requires them to make full body movement. Cycles and Skates are great options to teach kids balance and coordination.
Waldorf inspired Hand Kites and Silk streamers are great options to engage your kids in active Free play, and at the same time, improve their Gross motor skills.
Free play/ Physical Movement:
Whenever indoors, a dance session with the whole family will do the job for you.
If you feel they have interest in a particular sport, opt for professional coaching to enhance your child’s skill.
Fine Motor Skills:
Fine Motor skills refers to the ability of the child to perform everyday tasks that involve smaller muscles of their hands, fingers, wrists and their eyes. Daily activities such as eating with a spoon, writing, tying their shoe lace, etc require fine motor skills and here are some of the toys that support the development of these skills.
Toys that improve Fine motor skills:
For babies, getting them a Wooden hand rattle or a child-safe teether would encourage them to use their fine motor skills and improve their hand-eye coordination as they grasp and shake them.
You could also get an Object Permanence Box or Montessori based beginners block puzzles for 1+ year olds.
Stackers and Puzzles:
For Toddlers and Preschoolers, Stacking toys, Building Blocks, Puzzles are great options for enhancing their fine motor skills and Pre-writing abilities.
Beading activity kit:
Toys that engage kids in Beading or Lacing activity are great options to improve their fine motor skills and at the same time teach them life skills.
Get them Age-appropriate musical instruments like keyboards or xylophones, or drums. Kids love banging and making different sounds and it's also a great way to introduce them to Music at an early age.
Cognitive development means how children think, explore and figure things out. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and dispositions, which help children to think about and understand the world around them. As a parent, you can encourage your child’s cognitive development in the areas of memory, concentration, attention and perception by incorporating simple activities into your everyday routine.
Toys that improve Cognitive skills:
Talking, singing and especially Reading to babies will help in improving their language recognition and also their ability to recognise the family member, thereby improving their cognitive skills.
Sorting and puzzles:
For Toddlers and above, you could start with sorting and stacking activities and gradually move to Closed ended toys like Puzzles that have a perfect start and end points.
As they grow, there are many Montessori based activities like Stacking, sorting and learning the concept of Addition, subtraction through play, that improve both Cognitive and Fine Motor Skills of children.
It is defined as a person’s ability to express and manage feelings appropriately while respecting the feelings of others. While kids require time and social interaction to develop these skills, babies start learning these skills from an early age at home from parents and caregivers.
Toys to support emotional intelligence:
Emotional intelligence can also be developed in children through activities like Pretend Play and Storytelling where they can explore different emotions and situations and brainstorm solutions for certain situations. While Waldorf based Play silks give a rich sensory experience for children, using them in Imaginative Play enhances the kids creative thinking and helps in their emotional development.
Also Dolls play a vital role in providing emotional support for many kids, as Playing with dolls and stuffed animals helps children become socially aware of many situations and to be kind towards others. By taking care of a doll, they learn how to take care of each other.
Choosing the right toys for your baby is essential for their development, and it's important to consider their natural inclinations when selecting toys. Observe your child to understand what would make them the happiest. If your child likes to play in the sand, they may enjoy playing with sensory rice, if they like talking, you may want to introduce pretend play with puppets.
While babies learn through play, and learning toys are beneficial, it is also necessary to provide them with toys just to have fun too. By following your child's lead and allowing them to choose the toys that interest them, you can help support their natural curiosity and creativity, and provide them with the tools they need to thrive and develop new skills. Ultimately, with the right toys and plenty of love and attention, you can help your child grow and thrive in a healthy and happy way.