- When choosing a gift for your child, attention should be given to the benefits that the toy can offer regarding the child’s specific stage of development.
- Safety must remain paramount when choosing a child’s gift. The toy should not carry an accident risk, and it shouldn’t be so small that it presents a potentially fatal choking hazard.
- Whatever gift you eventually choose to give your child, it will not be completely fulfilling on its own. Any material desire of an infant must be partnered with time, love, understanding and care from their loved ones to be considered truly valuable.
Whatever the special occasion, be it a birthday, New Year celebration or Children’s Day, choosing the right gift for your child is something that every parent must give their utmost care and attention to. Parents often select gifts for their children based on what they may have asked for. However, parents should also choose gifts according to their safety and robustness, ensuring that they are in no way dangerous or small enough to present a choking hazard. Moreover, any toys should be suited to the child’s current stage of development—a gift that is too childish could result in the child quickly becoming bored. Similarly, a toy that is too mature for their tastes can also be a barrier to enjoyment. Suitable toys will differ significantly according to the child’s age and developmental needs. When a child finds happiness and fulfilment in a toy, it will lead to the learning of basic skills that will help them reach their full future potential.
Toys suitable for infants aged 0–6 months
are those which stimulate development and are tactile, such as:
- Visually stimulating toys—infants enjoy colourful toys that move around slowly, for example colourful mobiles made from lightweight materials that gently sway in the breeze.
- Audio stimulation toys—including those that can be knocked and shaken to produce a ringing sound or song.
- Toys that stimulate the mouth and touch—infants explore their surroundings using their hands and mouth, so toys that offer tactile stimulation should be soft, rubbery and safe to put in the mouth. Examples include soft dolls and colourful balls that the infant can grab and clutch safely.
Toys suitable for infants aged 7–12 months
should cater to their increased independence of movement and constantly-improving communication skills. Nevertheless, consideration should still be given to touch stimulation when selecting a toy that will support their increasingly complex needs. Examples include:
- Toys that support the child’s increased reliance on touch, such as soft, smooth balls or those with indentations that infants can grab or shake.
- Toys that support muscle use and movement, such as vehicles on a string, toys that can be rolled, wooden or plastic blocks that are large enough for them to build tall structures with or place into and take out of containers, as these will all improve dexterity and strengthen leg muscles.
- Toys that improve concentration, including colourful picture books that may be made from card, plastic or other material. The pictures will keep them interested as they practice holding, opening and closing a book, thereby stimulating development both in terms of language and dexterity.
Toys suitable for toddlers aged 1–2 years
should have a greater emphasis on muscle development, as well as improving balance and language skills. These include:
- Toys that support muscle development and balance include small vehicles on a string, wind-up toys and wooden or plastic sticks designed to be held, grabbed, squeezed, pressed or shaken in order to alter their shape or position. Colored pencils or crayons are also useful in terms of developing dexterity and teaching your infant how to write basic characters appropriate to their age.
- Toys that aid language development, such as age-appropriate fairy tale books, animal-related exercise books and other such materials that can build a foundation of knowledge for the world around them.
- Toys that offer support for concentration and hand-eye coordination, such as category boxes.
Toys suitable for toddlers aged 2- 3 years
should be aimed at encouraging them to better understand their surroundings in order to prepare them for school, including:
- Toys that encourage the use of various muscle groups working together and with greater fluency, such as tricycles which require balancing skills, leg and arm strength, and hand-eye coordination. Buying them large beads to place on a string will also aid concentration at the same time as developing their hand-eye coordination.
- Toys that support language development, including age-appropriate fairy tale books containing colourful and stimulating pictures. Reading such books to your child in entertaining voices to create a fun environment will not only increase their vocabulary but also improve their speech, communication and emotional development.
- Toys which encourage concentration include jigsaws puzzles, wooden blocks, colored wooden cubes and other shapes that will help children match colors and shapes, while also developing their counting skills.
- Toys that encourage creativity and develop problem solving skills, such as toys that mimic real-life to provide them with role-playing opportunities which, in addition to being enjoyable, will also teach them new words that they can use when communicating and relating their desires to adults.
Toys suitable for children aged 4-6 years
must encourage a deeper understanding of a child’s environment and the people who reside beyond the surroundings of their own home, such as schoolmates and neighbors. Examples include:
- Toys that aid muscle growth and movement literacy, such as bicycles and scooters, which require balance as well as the legs and arms working in harmony. Moreover, playing with such toys in a group will also enhance their social skills.
- Toys designed to encourage imagination and finding solutions to increasingly complex problems, including toys that mimic real-life that they can use to role play and tell stories, such as kitchen kits, doctor and nurse sets, and Lego cityscapes. In addition to the enjoyment and new vocabulary they gain through play, children will also learn how to plan and find solutions to situations that will be of use in their real lives as they grow.
Although all children are likely to ask for toys at some point in their young lives, the toys we choose will not be of any use if the child has nobody to play with. Moreover, while children may not be able to communicate this, the things they truly require in life are time, love, understanding and care from the grown-ups closest to them.