We all know that kids learn through play. So wouldn’t it be great if the toys we offer our kids, be toys that entertain and educate them? In other words, can we offer smart toys that develop smart kids?
Smart Toys For Smart Babies
Babies explore and they use their five senses to learn about the world. They touch anything and everything to learn if it’s hard or soft or squishy or prickly or rough. Of course, most of their play consists of “tasting” everything, shaking it, banging or dropping it.
Here are several great examples of smart toys for babies:
As baby is lying on his/her back in the crib, a nursery mobile with dancing figures will improve baby’s attention span and stimulate vision.
As their expressions change, babies will be fascinated when they look into the baby mirror at first. Eventually, your baby will recognize the smiling, drooling cute creature looking back is really a reflection. Babies become more self-aware once they realize this and as a result, they discover more about parts of their body and their surroundings.
A ring stacker is a toy where rings of different colors and sizes are stacked onto a cone. This is a classic toy. Babies love holding and biting the rings at the beginning. As their fine motor skills improve, they begin putting the rings onto the cone. Later as toddlers, they will start to understand colors and numbers when they stack and count the multicolored rings.
As your baby goes from crawling to taking steps, this toy will help with balance and the development of large muscles. As babies push and pull more, they strengthen the muscles they will use for running and climbing. As they develop into toddlers, they can use these toys to control those quick moving legs.
Smart Toys For Smart Toddlers
Toddlers are developing their awareness of objects and their function. They enjoy yapping on a toy phone, stacking blocks, and drinking from a “big kid” cup. This is when pretend play starts.
This lays the foundation for preschool play. They are starting to understand the function of certain items, and they will start to tell the difference between the shapes and colors.
Go for bright, colorful toys that are fun to play with. Around 2 years old, most toddlers can scribble with a crayon, kick a ball, and stack blocks at least 4 tall. At 3 years old, most can pedal a tricycle or do simple puzzles.
Little ones master new skills by repeating things, so expect to see this often, as they start taking charge of their surroundings.
Smart kids play with toys like these:
Balls promote gross motor skills, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination if they are thrown, bounced, rolled, or caught.
A ball like this one does all that, and more since it’s a sensory ball.
Problem-solving and hand-eye coordination can be sharpened with nesting cups or block, pegboard puzzles and buckets with different shaped holes for different shaped blocks.
Toys That Keep Them Busy
Develop their problem solving and fine motor skills with “busy bags.” (This resource has over 100 busy bag ideas that you can make yourself.)
Also consider toys that have levers, buttons, and knobs, or a play tool-kit.
Pop-up-toys are also great for teaching cause-and-effect.
Toys That Encourage Thinking
Smart kids can be thoroughly entertained through play, and learn at the same time. Encourage your toddler to play with multipurpose toys like this one, where they can learn colors, counting, sorting, matching, as well as developing their fine motor skills.
Role-Play And Pretend Toys
Pretend play is encouraged with stuffed animals and dolls like having a tea party with teddy. They also help with emotional and social development by teaching toddlers the best way to express themselves emotionally and how to be loving.
Board Games For Toddlers
Board games are not just for readers! There are plenty of board games for toddlers who are just starting to learn letters and numbers – here are several great ones. Board games are a great way to spend time with your little one, but they are also rich in learning opportunities. They satisfy your kiddo’s competitive urges and the desire to master new skills and concepts, like number, letter and shape recognition. Toddlers also further develop hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity.
Smart Toys For Smart Preschoolers
Babies use their 5 senses to learn about objects. Toddlers are beginning to understand how things work. At the preschooler stage, they’ll use the objects and toys as they were intended to be used. However, they will also find other creative uses for them, too. For example, they make a secret clubhouse by throwing a blanket over the coffee table, or modeling clay now becomes a pizza that you will have to “taste”.
A preschooler sees endless possibilities in their magical surroundings and they are the masters and creators of everything they see. Kids this age believe they have magical powers and are strong enough to defeat “monsters” or turn into a fairy, princess or another magical being.
Don’t be surprised if your preschooler drags you into a fantasy and wants you to play too. Imaginary friends usually “appear” at this stage. This kind of fantasy play is vital for the development of kids as it allows them to deal with anxiety, fears, hopes and dreams.
You will hear “mom, dad, watch!” often because the world is their stage and as they learn new tricks, they will want your approval and support for this new accomplishment. They will get the urge to connect with other people as they start to understand the give-and-take of playing and sharing in a cooperative manner.
Pretend play gets more involved. Kids today have a more advanced understanding of their surroundings, so when your preschooler knows exactly how to use electronic gadgets, make video games or electronic toys work, don’t be surprised.
The play also starts to get more physical. Why simply walk when skipping, hopping and jumping are options?
Smart kids play with toys like these:
Arts And Crafts
As your little one is developing fine motor skills, activities such as drawing pictures of family members, holding a crayon, using safety scissors for cutting and pasting help to improve coordination, promote creativity and build up self-esteem.
This is an easy and cheap way to keep your preschooler entertained. You could get different supplies from the dollar store for example, or simply buy a prepacked art supply set for toddlers and preschoolers.
Blocks And Construction Sets
Erecting a tower and finding ways to prevent it from falling over improves hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Preschoolers use a simple construction set and their imagination to make vehicles, buildings, animals etc.
Pattern blocks and boards, jigsaw puzzles improve coordination, dexterity and show spatial relationships (the relation of things to each other) as well as rational thinking.
Smart Toys For “Big” Smart Kids
Kids in elementary school are more advanced than they ever have been. They quickly intake info and understand their surroundings and are mastering the skills that they found challenging previously, such as braiding the hair of a friend or catching a football.
At this stage talent and interest start to firm up – a 4-year-old who loved story time might also grow to love reading; a 5-year-old who loves listening to music might be interested in playing the piano.
Physical capabilities are getting fine tunes such as fine and large motor skills. They learn to ride bikes with two wheels or to skateboard. Arts and crafts get more detailed and they could spend hours making a friendship bracelet or drawing comic characters.
Their relationship with peers becomes a priority and they will want to play with their friends more than you. Keep in mind that as your child gets older, you will remain their most important playmate, therefore, put aside time for one-on-one play. Family game nights are great at bringing the family together.
New adventures might be on the horizon like off-road biking, an activity they couldn’t do at a younger age, but they still need your oversight to perform safely now.
Smart kids play with toys like these:
By playing jump rope with friends, kids find out how to take turns and play in harmony with their peers. Jumping requires coordination and promotes the development of large motor and problem-solving skills.
Card and Board Games
“Crazy eights” or “war” card games and board games such as chess or checkers teaches fair play, strategy, taking turns and negotiating rules. Promote cooperation and help your child deal with the emotions that go along with winning and losing.
Listening and fine motor skills are enhanced by playing the violin, piano, guitar or other musical instruments and it also helps to establish attention skills. Research has proven time and time again that learning music is often associated with smart kids.
Note From The Author
Sure, toys are a necessary tool to help kids develop. No one disputes that. However, it is important to mention that while toys are important in growth and development, the most important toy for any child, is YOU. It is you who nurtures your child’s growth.
Knowing you are there to help paint a picture or build blocks or read a story is what your child needs first. The knowledge that they are loved, is what builds their self-esteem and help them feel secure.
I’m a mom of five and I work full-time. I know how hard it is to make time for everything that’s important but do keep in mind that children spell love T-I-M-E.
Featured Image Credit: Christa Renee