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Why Toys Are Important For Child Development

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We all remember our favourite toys from the time we were kids – the ones we loved more than anything else in the world. Some of us may still have these toys buried away in the loft for sentimental purposes. The hours of enjoyment that our favourite toys brought us is something we all look back on fondly. What we do not tend to remember however, is just how much toys affected our development.

Toys are crucial in a child’s development, and in many ways. Research has shown that children’s learning mainly happens through play, and the availability of play materials is one of the most consistent predictors of intelligence. As children play with their favourite toys, they learn and develop various skills that will help them in later life. The things that you as an adult do without any thought – writing, communicating, tying your shoelaces – can all be credited to toys, which is why you should always consider development when choosing toys for your little ones.

Physical Development

From the very moment they are born, babies begin learning and developing fine motor skills. At each stage of their development toys will play a vital role in helping to ensure each of the four essential bases – postural control, touch perception, bilateral control, and hand function – are reached. From the grasping of a teething rattle to the catching of a ball, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and muscle strength all benefit from play.

As children grow, toys will grow with them, becoming more challenging and encouraging physical development. For example, board puzzles develop into interlocking puzzles, crayons make way for paints, and ball games graduate from rolling to throwing, catching, and kicking.

Child Development Toys

Language Skills

The little gurgles that a child makes, whether in pleasure or dismay, are attempts to communicate with you and the silly sounds and faces that you make back is teaching them very basic communication. Toys and books that sing nursery rhymes and jingles to children are important for helping them develop language skills. As babies become toddlers and begin to recognise various letters, objects and animals, books and matching games will increase their development further.

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect, also known as the art of cognitive thinking, is something you begin teaching your child with toys without even knowing you are doing so. The very moment you place a rattle in their tiny hand, a baby begins learning about cause and effect (shake the rattle and it makes noise). Cause and effect increases a baby’s sense of control over the world, as they learn that every action brings about a reaction. Things such as pop-up toys and toys that involve pushing are excellent in teaching cause and effect.

Social Skills

Toys are vital in social development and help to teach skills that are crucial in school and in later life. Sharing, taking turns, collaborating, self-regulation, empathy, and following rules are just some of the things that can be learned through the introduction of toys. Being able to get along with others is one of the most important aspects in life and being social from an early age is imperative. Babies that are taught to share toys will interact and play confidently with others.

A Sense of Safety

Developing a sense of safety in children is accomplished easily in infants through feeding and nursing; however, as a child grows older, the physical bond fades somewhat. By providing a child with toys that encourage others to play with them, whether it’s a sibling or mum or dad, your child learns that someone is there for them, cares for them, and provides them with a safe environment.

Boosting Brain Function

Educational toys are proven to make children smarter and, by stimulating the mind, brain function is boosted. According to a study by Stanford University in California, skills learned very early in life trigger permanent changes in the structure of the brain used to make decisions in later life.

Toys that beep, crinkle or need prodding and poking are all likely to shape a child's brain for future tasks, and learning new skills very early in life prompts neurons in the brain to build new connections that still work into adulthood, scientists have revealed.

Speaking to the BBC about the study, Professor Janet Eyre, a specialist in paediatric neuroscience at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said, “There is very good evidence that, in the early stages of development, the brain is much more plastic.

“It has a genetic blueprint that gives it some rules on how to wire itself. But at various stages it also responds to environmental cues and it uses its experiences to shape itself for the future.

“Toys provide motivation and boost learning. It's important to spend time playing with them when the brain is very plastic because it likes to do things so that it can learn.”

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