Toys for Toddlers

Toddlers teeter back and forth between the need for independence and the need for help. By the time your toddler hits two, they may insist on putting their pants on without your help, then turn to you for help with the socks. Toddler toys should work with this characteristic.

Toddlers learn by getting their hands into everything, touching, feeling, doing. They fiddle with knobs, remove drawer pulls, flip light switches on and off—it may seem like a constant battle to keep your home in one piece. Toys with interlocking parts—nesting cups, shape sorters, houses with doors and windows that open and shut, puzzles, construction sets, spoke and wheel connector toys—offer a good measure of challenge to keep your toddler playing contentedly for an afternoon.

Toddlers learn best from unstructured play. Keep a variety of stimulating and educational toys accessible and let your toddler choose what to play with and when. A good selection of toddler toys will keep your toddler in a whirlwind frenzy of play for a few hours at least. Just be prepared for the mess afterwards, those pieces get everywhere.

Typical toddler toys should be open-ended and versatile. Plastic tea sets allow your child to serve food, eat food, plates easily become parts of a sandwich, bowls become a favorite fill and dump toy. Most toddlers love play involving eating and drinking. Add some Velcro pull-apart food and the fun never stops. Just about any scaled-down toddler toy, from vacuums, rakes, brooms and shopping carts to strollers will excite your toddler. Toddlers are all about helping, and scaled-down versions of your household tools allows your toddler to do what they do best—help.

Walk into your local toy store and you will soon see a group of toddlers huddled around the permanent toy train display, transfixed for at least 30 minutes. Train sets are fabulous for toddlers. They can use their imagination to set up the track in interesting shapes, linking the cars together helps improve manual dexterity and you have many years of additions to keep it interesting. Most toddlers love testing the train to see how well it takes corners at different lengths, and the different sounds it makes between running it over a carpet and across a bare floor.

Toddlers love making art. It seems some want to leave their mark on just about every surface. Encourage that creative edge by providing a work space. Set up a big sheet of paper, add some thick washable crayons or markers, then stand back and watch the artist at work. Keep the water-soluble paints nearby, just in case a switch in medium is needed. Stock your craft box with stickers, feathers, foam shapes, sparkly glue, and white glue for all those cut and paste projects toddlers love. Always cover your fridge with your toddler's art and change them as new pieces become available.

Toddlers also love making music. Sometimes their version of cacophony is not music to your ears however. Provide a selection of instruments for your toddler to bang and play: percussion sticks, triangle, maracas, drums, a recorder, even a keyboard. Simple instruments will introduce your toddler to the sound of real musical instruments and improve eye-hand coordination. Percussive instruments will help your child develop an ear for beat and rhythm. Melodic instruments inspire most toddlers to create original compositions over and over. Include a set of ear plugs for yourself—just in case.

Many toddlers prefer to sit and listen to you read a story. If your readings are not so inspiring however, books on tape or CD can provide an entertaining alternative. Many toddlers enjoy hearing the new and different character voices come out of a machine. The twinkling sound to indicate you can move on to the next page is waited for in anticipation. Look for stories that rhyme, the cadence and rhythm is pleasing and catchy for most toddlers. Stories with rhyme and repetition are often memorized quickly and soon you will be hearing your toddler read a story to you.

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