Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 10:45 am

Dr Melodie de Jager, developmental expert and educator, who is also a Mind Moves and BabyGym specialist, explains there are good toys and ‘bad’ toys. If the toy encourages your child to interact with you or to play on his own, it’s good for your child. ‘Bad’ toys discourage thinking and give immediate gratification.

At each stage of development your child is going to need different types of toys to stimulate his senses and encourage movement and gross and fine motor development.

From 13 months to 2 years

  • Give your child toys that encourage independent play, especially if the toys imitate what we do as adults.
  • At this stage girls tend to love dolls and boys cars, but there’s no reason why girls can’t have cars and boys play with dolls. Both toys imitate life. Fathers often rebel against boys having tea sets, brooms, and dolls, but if your little boy wants to play with them, give them to him. It can only foster a positive attitude towards all things ‘domestic’.
  • Anything that can be used as a hammer is always a hit at this age – children enjoy them even more if there is a sound associated with the hammering. You can make a hammering toy using some golf tees and a piece of polystyrene. Only let your child play with his hammer under supervision, as these little ones are still prone to putting things into their mouths.
  • Toy telephones are very entertaining, but make sure they resemble the real thing.
  • Introduce your child to good quality musical instruments, such as drums and xylophones.
  • Peg puzzles, which encourage the thumb and forefinger (pincer) grip, can be introduced now. Look for pictures that excite your child – building equipment, animals, families, gardening tools, dolls, clowns, transport.
  • Play dough, cookie cutters and beads and thread all make good, stimulating toys, but you must supervise this type of play.
  • Read aloud to your children as they love nursery rhymes and the rhythm we use when we say them encourages speech development.

From 3 to 5 years

  • Your child really enjoys constructing things now, so a large bag of blocks will go a long way. Use the blocks to teach him concepts such as more and less, higher and lower, short and long, and to teach him colours.
  • Make-believe and dress-up clothes encourage imagination, so let your child choose scarves, hats and shoes from your cupboard and join her in her make-believe world.
  • For boys, plastic tools just like Dad’s and a small toolbox to put them in will make him feel skilled and independent, and able to do exactly what his father does.
  • Puzzles are an old favourite and a wonderful way to stimulate your child – especially on those days when he can’t go outside. Choose ones with pictures about things he likes. There are puzzles that teach children about colours, how to count, and the different things people do like doctors, firemen, gardeners and so on.

By Ruth Rehbock

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