Developmental Toys for Toddlers
Childhood development experts recommend simple toys for toddlers that require them to use their imagination instead of high-tech toys that do the work for them. With that in mind, here are a few of our top picks for kids 1 to 3 years old.
Tricycles and Ride-on Toys
As your little one becomes increasingly mobile, tricycles and other ride-on toys improve her strength and help her to develop balance and spatial perception. Balance bikes -- those that rely on children's feet instead of traditional pedals -- have become increasingly popular over the past several years and give kids (over 2 years) an extra step up in balance.
Before baby is ready for trikes and bikes, however, the popular push-and-pull toys are sure to be among her favorites Whether wooden alligators, plastic dogs or baby walkers, push-and-pull toys will work to improve your little one's muscle strength, coordination and balance.
For older toddlers, lacing beads help to enhance fine- and gross-motor skills, in particular manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. When selecting lacing-bead kits for your child, be sure the beads are big enough to not pose a choking hazard.
Geometric toys teach toddlers about shapes and are a top pick for intellectual development. Shape sorters are a great choice for younger toddlers (1 to 2 years). For older toddlers, choose geometric sorting boards, which offer additional lessons in categorization by teaching kids to stack geometric pieces in the correct positions.
Role-play serves as an important and imaginative form of play that allows kids to practice language and interpersonal interaction, and to refine skills before having to perform them in real-life settings. Help your little one along by providing him with play sets that let him imitate you. Dress up gear, kitchen sets, dolls and tool benches are some good choices for toddlers 18 months to 3 years old.
Regardless of how much she is vocalizing, your toddler is absorbing language at a rapid pace. Reading to her and actively pointing out and labeling objects in her world is one of the best things you can do to help her with language development. Choose first word books that introduce baby to simple words and concepts as well as books with more detailed stories and elaborate rhymes.
Musical toys help kids learn the difference between sounds, improve their fine motor dexterity and help develop their hand-eye coordination. Traditional musical instruments such as xylophones, drums and maracas are best.
Early childhood development expert Sharon MacDonald extols blocks as a developmental powerhouse that will be a favorite from infancy through grammar school. Her book, Block Play, is full of activities parents can use with their children to encourage everything from social skills to language, math and science. Consider outfitting your little one with blocks of all shapes and sizes, including standard wooden ones, colorful geometric shapes and soft fabric blocks made just for baby.
Balls were recently touted by Parents magazine as two of the three best toys for intellectual development. They promote spatial awareness, logical thinking and physical coordination as well as offering important lessons in cause and effect. What's more, balls will remain a favorite for your toddler for years to come.