Helen Sadovsky is a pediatric occupational therapist for over 9 years, and she often uses toys in her practice to reinforce skills with her young patients.
She shares with Edushape tips for parents, grandparents and all gift givers on how to choose the best for infants and toddlers.
You can find her on Facebook and Instagram @Toy_Ideas
Pick toys that do not have a lot of bells and whistles as often the simple ones engage the child and inspire him or her in so many ways. During play, children should be as active as possible, steering the experience with their actions and imaginations while the toy remains passive. That’s why it’s better to choose toys that are simple, feature one function, have a clear cause and effect, and allow the child to be more focused and in charge of their experience.
Look for well made toys that can last a long time as children can play with the same toy differently as they grow and mature. Often times well made wooden toys not only endure but they typically leave more room for opened play. Children also find the smoothness of the wood calming.
Whether a toy is wooden or plastic, the quality is more important than the quantity. It is better to have a few timeless toys that help promote developmental skills and that can be alternated between than to have piles of toys laying around with missing parts. Edushape is an example of a brand that makes thoughtful wooden and plastic toys.
Ask what underlying skills each toy will help develop. For instance, if a child is three years old, there are certain motor, cognitive, and social milestones that they are expected to be meeting for their age (e.g., engaging in pretend play and using their imagination). It is helpful to know that a shape sorter does not only teach about shapes but also reinforces motor skills and coordination.