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Appropriate Play Activities and Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Introduction

Play is how toddlers and preschool children learn. It helps them explore their world, learn new skills, and get ideas. Therefore, it is the occupation of the children (Guyton 50). As children continue with this process, they continuously learn new skills and gain new experiences. Play is essential for early development since it enhances physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Teachers may also enhance the learning process through child’s play. This could be done through the provision of selected toys.

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The types of toys used by children during play are an important consideration to make since each has a particular impact. Children should be provided with toys that are safe to play with. They should suit the particular child in that they should be suitable for his or her interests, ability, and age. Playing with toys develops particular areas of the child. For example, block plays are associated with cognitive development. They are a starting point in the development of problem-solving skills, basic calculations, and other related concepts.

When selecting the appropriate toys, teachers, parents or guardians should have an understanding of the type of toys that would help enhance cognitive development, develop language, gross and fine motor skills. They should also know which of the toys enhances social-emotional development. Skills such as cognitive development require thinking skills. This is whereby the child processes information to understand how certain things work. Toys usually provide an opportunity for children to learn through imitation. Through this, they also understand the cause and effect of certain activities. This paper aims at educating parents about different toys and play activities available for toddlers and preschoolers.

Different Toys for Different Purposes

Playing to enhance physical development

Play is important in the child’s physical development. As a child runs, jumps, rolls, and throws objects during playtime, he or she builds muscles, burns energy, and feels hungry. This plays an important role in improving strength and coordination. Through play, children also improve body coordination (Casby 163). Since children get tired and hungry during play, this helps them eat and sleep better, contributing to their overall physical development. Toddlers usually require sleeping many hours in a day so that they may continue to grow. However, this may not be possible if they simply do not feel like sleeping. Engaging the toddlers in intense play would make them tired and sleepy, allowing them to sleep soundly and for longer (uninterrupted) hours.

Gross motor skills are acquired during play since this usually requires the use of large body muscles (Howes 389). Fine motor skills, on the other hand, are acquired while using the smaller muscles of the body. For parents to help enhance gross motor skills in their children, they should provide toys and put in place structures that would encourage them to climb, run and hop. For example, putting up slides, swings and climbers could assist with this. Pre-schoolers could also exercise their large muscles. They could do this by riding tricycles and climbing objects.

As for fine motor skills, parents should provide toys that encourage the use of small muscles such as those of the toes and fingers. Toddlers usually grasp using the whole hand. Therefore, parents could encourage toddlers to pick up small pieces from the ground to exercise fine motor skills. Parents could also provide puzzles for the children to exercise their small muscles. Other small muscles include the eye muscles. These muscles could also be developed by encouraging the child to move the eyes when looking at moving objects. Parents could easily do this by placing colorful mobiles above the crib. As the child lies in the crib, he or she could follow the movement of the mobile hence developing the eye muscles.

Children also need to develop the ability to balance. This could be achieved through walking along curbs since this requires coordination. This could also be achieved by playing hopscotch and using the monkey bars. Body coordination entails the use of different body parts to achieve a single activity. Toddlers may not be able to ensure the smooth movement of these body parts. Therefore, appropriate play should be employed to train the toddler to learn how to coordinate different body parts for this purpose.

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Playing to enhance mental development

During play, children understand how to use their brains. This is usually done using their sense of taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing. They also become aware of different sizes, colors, textures, and weights. Parents can provide toys and objects that can be used in many different ways and for various developmental processes. Some of the items that can be used for mental (cognitive) development in children include fabric, puzzles, blocks, and books.

Fabric is readily available at home since it could be from old clothes or sheets. This could be used during play in different ways. It could be used as a costume during dramatic play or put inside a box and pulled out again during games such as peek-a-boo. Research suggests that the essential step in cognitive development in infants is whereby they understand that an object is there even if they cannot see it (Guyton 52). Understanding object performance makes an infant aware of what goes on around him or her. With this knowledge, they would be able to learn through imitation and exploration.

Other important toys that parents should provide to their children include blocks. These may be used by children of all ages. For toddlers (ages two and below), simple blocks could be used. This may be in form of small carton boxes. However, children aged two and above could use wooden unit blocks. Children can begin to explore the blocks, move and hold them. As they continue to develop, they learn how to stack them horizontally, vertically, or in a line. Later on, they learn how to develop simple and complex designs using them while selecting blocks of different sizes. They become capable of understanding the dimensions of objects and concepts of balance while building structures.

Puzzles are also helpful when it comes to cognitive development in toddlers and infants. One of the simple puzzles that can be developed at home by parents is the use of a muffin pan puzzle. Several small objects of different sizes and shapes should be provided so that the child would try to fit them inside. More challenging puzzles could be created by cutting off different sizes and shapes from a box whereby the child would try to fit the items of the same size and shape. Simple picture puzzles can also be developed by cutting a picture into several pieces and allowing the child to reassemble it. As a child tries to fit in the correct object, this develops problem-solving skills. With time, their confidence (in the ability to find solutions) is boosted (Guyton 54).

Moving objects such as mobile attract the attention of children (toddlers) stimulating interaction. Parents can develop mobile by hanging objects on a string. Children may then watch them or reach out and touch them. Several skills may be developed using the mobile. For example, children can learn cause and effect. They can also develop hand and eye coordination. While touching and batting them, they can make texture and sound discoveries. Books may also be used for early literacy.

This may be useful as they discover new things and learn how to name objects. They also understand that pictures represent real objects. Parents can stick pictures on thick cardboard so that they would not tear easily as the child tries to flip. Other toys that enhance cognitive development include puppets. This made be easily made at home using socks, paper, or cloth. A face could be drawn on a paper and stuck on the puppet to ‘bring it to life. Children may use them to tell stories and during acting. This kind of play enhances abstract thinking and imagination. It also helps in sequencing and language development.

Playing to enhance emotional and social development

It is human nature to want to feel part of the larger group. One needs to feel accepted and be able to live and work with different groups of people around him or her. In children (toddlers and preschoolers), play serves this function. During playtime, children from different backgrounds and cultures are associated with each other. Research indicates that the children get the opportunity to compare their behavior and beliefs with the other children and to identify different points of view from others (Kwon and Yawkey 11).

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Within their social groups, children learn to be sensitive to other people’s issues and learn to be self-controlled. This is due to the fact they need to share space and power. They share different ideas about common issues during play. They also have the opportunity to learn how to manage their emotions. In preschool, children are placed in a different setting from what they were used to while at home. Therefore, they are forced to move their attention away from their families and focus on their peers. They get involved in clubs and team sports where they can work together with their peers to achieve common goals. This way they gain an understanding of their significance in society.

To make children aware of the ethical and social values of their community, parents should provide culturally reflective material. However, materials that demonstrate any form of stereotyping must be avoided in order not to corrupt the child’s mind. Therefore, books and other reading materials must be selected carefully to ensure that the child is only equipped with information that would enhance positive social and emotional development.

Availability of the Appropriate Toys

Several businessmen have created a perception that toys that are brought from the stores (expensive ones) are better. However, this is not necessarily true. Appropriate toys are those that have been selected to suit the individual’s age, interest, and the type of development to enhance. Toys can be made in the comfort of the home using readily available materials. Examples include bottles, bottle-tops, pieces of cloth, yarn, pans, and many more. This option may apply to poorer communities or individuals who are ever busy.

Individuals who have sufficient time may spend their time making the toys with the children. This is one way of building relationships between the parties. With creativity, one can use readily available materials to create objects that can stimulate play and facilitate child development. Examples of these include socks (to create sock puppets), tins, carton boxes, and dishes. Mobile can also be developed at home by hanging pictures and other objects such as pinecones on strings.

Conclusion

Play is an important part of any developing child. Moreover, it is a child’s occupation since this is what mostly occupies the lives of a growing child. Play is very vital since it helps a child grow physically, socially (emotionally), and mentally. Physical development may be seen in two ways. Firstly, children use a lot of energy during play and this makes them tired and sleepy. Therefore, they sleep longer hours, which is required as they grow.

Secondly, they get to exercise both their large and small muscles. This enhances the gross and fine motor skills respectively. In terms of social and emotional development, the children learn to interact with children from different backgrounds and cultures. Hereby, they compare and contrast some of their behaviors and beliefs and learn to accommodate other individuals from different cultures. In terms of mental development, toys play an important role in developing cognitive skills such as problem-solving, language and vocabulary, hand-eye coordination, and imagination. Therefore, parents should provide appropriate toys and play activities so that children can develop the required skills.

Annotated Bibliography

Guyton, Gabriel. “Using toys to support infant-toddler learning and development.” Young Children (2011): 50-56. Print.

Guyton provided an understanding about the importance of play as a learning process during growth and development in children. He argued that play was children’s main occupation. He explained how different toys and play activities could be used to enhance social, emotional and cognitive development. He went ahead to mention specific toys and their cognitive connections based on the activity involved.

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Kwon, Jeong, and Thomas Yawkey. “Principles of emotional development and children’s pretend play.” International Journal of Early Childhood 32.1 (2000): 9-13.

Kwon and Yawkey studied the aspect of emotional development in children. They also looked at the role of pretend play in developing cognition. They argued that emotional development in children could be seen in various levels. These included modelling, expression, intelligence and modelling. They also argued that children learned how to deal with their emotions and to be sensitive to other people’s issues during play. They suggested that parents and caregivers should be involved in ensuring that children develop positive emotional expressions.

Howes, Carollee. “Relations among child care quality, teacher behaviour, children’s play activities, emotional security and cognitive activity in child care.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 10.1 (1995): 381-404.

Howes argued that parents and teachers could measure the children’s cognitive activity of the children by observing how they play with toys. Some of the play activities and toys mentioned included blocks, puzzles, dramatic play, among many more. She argued that play activities enhanced fine motor skills, cognitive development and coordination. She also suggested that this was enhanced if there were positive relations with the teachers.

Casby, Michael. “The development of play in infants, toddlers and young children.” Communication Disorder Quarterly 24.4 (2003): 163-174.

Casby demonstrated how children improve their skills through play. The gradual process involves improvements in control and coordination while handling objects (toys). He argued that this sequence of continued development serves as a benchmark to diagnose for issues during development in order to provide early intervention.

Works Cited

Casby, Michael. “The development of play in infants, toddlers and young children.” Communication Disorder Quarterly 24.4 (2003): 163-174.

Guyton, Gabriel. “Using toys to support infant-toddler learning and development.” Young Children (2011): 50-56. Print.

Howes, Carollee. “Relations among child care quality, teacher behaviour, children’s play activities, emotional security and cognitive activity in child care.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 10.1 (1995): 381-404.

Kwon, Jeong, and Thomas Yawkey. “Principles of emotional development and children’s pretend play.” International Journal of Early Childhood 32.1 (2000): 9-13.

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