Theresa O. is an editor at couporando.co.uk - She loves to write about Fashion Trends , family, and outdoor activities.
Babies and children are naturally inquisitive. As they grow they are exposed to new sounds, discover objects and enjoy first experiences. Cognitive development happens as they gain knowledge, piece it together and apply it to the world around them. Much of this happens as a matter of course, however, parental input is vital in helping young children to meet their developmental milestones and reach their potential.
From a very early age toys are important in helping cognitive development. Even very basic toys can help a child to explore and understand the world around them. Babies and young children learn from repetition so don't be surprised if your child wants to do the same thing over and over again.
Early play ideas
You don't need to wait until your child can manipulate an object to introduce toys. Babies benefit from having things to explore around them right from the start. Pick high contrast colour toys such as black and white soft books to help visual development or tactile toys to develop the sense of touch. Introduce gentle music to help with listening skills or a rattle that can be attached to your baby's wrist or ankle so that they can experiment with making sounds.
Start reading to your child when they are between three and six months old as this will help with language development. Board books are ideal as they have simple stories – and are hard- wearing enough to cope with being dribbled on and chewed. Cuddly toys are a good way of encouraging motor skill development, whilst a play gym with an activity bar or lots of toys to bat and feel can help with visual development and touch.
Exploring the wider world
Once your baby is on the move, typically between six and nine months, introduce toys that can be followed, such as cars and balls. This will help with physical development and also help them begin to understand cause and effect. Your baby may enjoy help with building up (and knocking down!) stackable blocks, start to explore different shapes on a shape sorter or experiment with pressing/pulling/twisting on an activity board. These activities all help with hand-eye coordination and cognitive development.
When your child is stable on their feet, introduce toys that can be pushed such as a building brick trolley or toy pushchair. This will help with confidence and independence as well as increasing their ability to explore the greater world. Books with flaps can help with motor control whilst sorting and stacking toys help with problem-solving skills. Introduce the idea of taking turns by playing with a ball, rolling it back and forth.
As toddlerhood approaches encourage early drawing skills. Small children find chunky crayons and pencils easier to grip and use. If you're worried about mess, invest in an aquadraw kit or mess-free colouring set. Also introduce the idea of pretend play with a toy phone, kitchen or dressing up clothes. Children learn from copying the adults in their life and pretend play helps with language, abstract thought and problem-solving skills.
When choosing toys for your child, keep it simple. Toys that do too much don't encourage your child to think independently or use their imagination. Opt for toys that allow your child to be spontaneous instead of taking on a passive role. Using voucher codes such as those found at http://www.couporando.co.uk/baby-kids-toys can be a good way of investing in good quality toys that will grow with your child at a fraction of the cost. Finally, remember to have fun with your child and enjoy their delight as they discover something new or do something for the first time.
Picture: © Playing with Xylophones (Donnie Ray Jones/ Flickr, CC BY 2.0)