July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chanukah is around the corner and I am trying to figure out what to buy for my kids. I have different ages and abilities. I would like to focus on toys that are developmental in nature as opposed to those toys that my kids will look at for two minutes and then throw in the toy box. Do you have any suggestions?

As therapists working on development, as well as retailers for developmental toys, we find this question to be very pertinent and important. In fact, the reason why we, as occupational therapists, went into retail to begin with is because we wanted to find a way to provide developmental games for our clients. Often we were making recommendations for specific types of toys that were very difficult to find. Thus began our journey into searching for the “right” kind of toys.

In a previous article, titled “Choosing the Right Kind of Toy” (Nov. 28, 2013), we discussed in detail the methods for recommending toys for different ages. In general, we explained that different types of toys can elicit, or enhance, different stages of developmental and different types of skills. For example, a child through the age of three would benefit most from having toys that encourage exploration and hands-on experimenting. An older child would benefit more from a toy/game that encourages problem solving and strategy development. We explained that it is important to first decide what skills you would like to enhance before thinking of the toy or game that you intend to buy. In order to not be repetitive, we decided to focus this article on specific types of games and toys to purchase.

Birth-nine months are important ages for the development of the sensory system. Toys that enhance these skills, such as vision, hearing, beginning to reach toward objects, and tactile awareness, are all attributes that we look for when choosing toys. For example, rattles like the Skwish, Twilight Turtle, Taggies, Tobbles and teethers. Any overhead gym types of toys that stimulate a child’s emerging reaching skills is a great choice.

Nine-24 months is a pivotal time in a young toddler’s development. This is the time when a child is exploring his/her environment through crawling and then walking. At this age, children tend to be very curious and through movement, touch, vision, hearing etc. they learn about their surroundings. At this age we look for toys that will enhance exploration and fine and gross motor development. Toys such as Junior Marble Race, shape sorters, Funny Magnets, Pewi bike, and Mini2go scooters are a few examples of toys that would be appropriate for this age group.

Two to four year olds are really learning how to play. At this age children learn pretend play as well as how to play basic games that involve skills such as turn taking, following rules and staying on task. We recommend games such as Spot it Jr., Raccoon Rumpus, Shelby’s Snack Shack game, Hoppy Floppy’s Happy Hunt, Zingo, Magnetibooks, Janod Kit Magnet Trucks and Cars, and Lauri shape sorting and peg board games.

Five to eight year olds are really becoming pros at play! These children’s preferences and skills can vary so you have to know your children’s strengths and interests. At this point, children should be able to follow at least two- and three-step directions, understand ideas such as winning and losing (and learning how to be a good winner AND a good loser!) and be able to play with one or two other children. Many children enjoy independent play, as well as activities such as pretend play and building. For this age we recommend games such as Raccoon Rumpus, Swish Jr., Block Buddies, Gobblet Gobblers, Kwiziac Kids, and the various types of Spot It games. Construction toys like Clics and Magformers are winners with children of all ages. There is also a huge selection of magnetic pretend toys now that are appropriate for young children with varying interests.

Children ages eight and up are already beginning to master the skills of play. These children are able to play games with more complex reasoning, following multistep directions and playing games that require logic, strategy and planning. They can play in groups with other children, with only one other child or even independently. There are so many great games in this category. Games like Tenzi, Swish, Pathwords, Cirplexed and Kwizniac are fun options. Larger-group options are Quelf, Perpetual Commotion, Anomia, Rhyme Out, Jungle Speed and Picwits.

Don’t forget option such as scooters, ride-on toys, Spooners and other toys that get your kids moving, such as Smak-a-ball, Ogo Disc and Trap ball.

Kids’ Therapy Toys will be having a huge pre-holiday toy sale on Saturday night, November 21, from 8-11 where there will be a large selection of toys, games and therapy items for all ages.

By Alyssa Colton and Aviva Lipner

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