By Dennette Bailey

The holidays are fast approaching, and while some may be experts at, and even love shopping for children, there are others who just need a little guidance on the subject. As an educator I have a preference for toys that teach or encourage critical and independent thinking. Sometimes people feel that they don’t have to worry about toys that teach until the child is ready for school. However, I would like to encourage you to consider that there are toys that can help your child gain critical skills. This fact has impacted toy design for hundreds of years. Consider that the rocking horse toy (which arrives in the 17th century) is said to have been designed to help children develop balancing skills for riding real horses. This would have been a very important skill in the 17th and 18th centuries.

As both a parent and an educator I have composed my top 5 toys for toddlers. These are great suggestions for your upcoming holiday shopping.

  1. Books

For the toddler (ages 1-2 years of age) books are a great gift. Board books are the best choice as they are sturdy. They also are likely to have text that tends to repeat and rhyme which is very helpful for the toddler learning language skills.

  1. Blocks

Toddlers love blocks, and they are important because they aid in hand-eye coordination as well as foster creativity. Be advised that blocks are for both boys and girls. Children can have hours of entertainment from blocks and caregivers will love seeing how a block can become virtually anything a toddler needs it to become, from a telephone to a doll, while they play.

  1. Washable Markers and Crayons

It wasn’t long ago that many children were practically in school before they were allowed to use crayons and markers. Then came the invention of the washable crayon and marker. (I don’t have proof of this, but there has to be some research out there that proves children are more creative since this invention). There is no longer any excuse to prohibit our toddlers from expressing themselves through art. Using crayons and markers during these early years will be helpful to your child. It will build their self- confidence as well as help them learn how to manipulate writing instruments. This will help them when they enter school and are expected to write legibly for the teacher.

  1. Stuffed Animals & Puppets

Stuffed animals and puppets offer children lots of comfort. In addition, they offer loads of opportunity for children to work out their fears or display their joys through pretend play. These toys can be very reasonably priced as well and so they are easy on the pocket book if you have lots of little ones to purchase for. Also, unlike most toys, the stuffed animal can often become a forever keepsake and so the giver and the receiver really get their money’s worth out of this gift.

  1. Ride on Toys

Ride on toys offer lots of fun for toddlers. Toddlers really get to experience their independence with riding toys. If you observe them, you will notice their facial expressions and self-talk that expose their constant thinking and decision making regarding where and how to maneuver their ride on toy. When my youngest daughter was a toddler I bought ride on toys that were specifically for riding in the house. In this manner the weather did not affect her ability to have lots of time to practice her independent thinking while riding a trike. My family and friends thought I was weird but I think this particular toy (and the added benefit of riding it in the house) aided in my daughter being able to have her own ideas, questioning the norm and feeling confident about her decisions.

These are all toys that will impact all aspects of children’s development. These toys in particular help children learn about their world and help them work out the things in their environment they may not understand. They also keep children entertained and there is certainly value in that.

Keep in mind that when you buy a child a toy, you are not just giving them something to play with. You are literally impacting their quality of life as a child and the person they will become as an adult. Happy shopping!

Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletters here.