July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Proactive Toy and Play Choices for Your Baby/Toddler

As a pediatric occupational therapist doing early intervention throughout Bergen County, I have the pleasure of playing with toys most of the day. Choices of toys and goals are always purposeful. Discussion takes place with the parents when choosing toys for play, and toy suggestions are re-evaluated as the child progresses.

We like to consider ourselves educated consumers and particularly for our babies and toddlers, we would like to give them a good head start. Entering a toy store may be overwhelming, as might be online shopping, where we question what is an age-appropriate toy to buy and what is the baby/toddler supposed to be doing at a particular age. How are they supposed to be playing? Why is play so important after all? A major reason is that the baby learns about his body and the world around him while playing.

What is play for a 6- to 12-month old? At this young age babies are busy exploring and beginning fine motor development. They bring their hands together, and are interested in grasping and releasing objects. Babies are learning cause and effect and problem-solving skills. They also begin to work on gross motor development and crawling during this period of time. The types of toys or play that you would want to provide for the baby are games such as peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, placing objects into containers and dumping them out. Musical toys are good, as are ring stackers and a tunnel to practice crawling.

At 1-2 years of age, gross and fine motor development begin in earnest. Cognition and problem- solving skills are also taking place. Once your toddler is upright and walking begins, push-and-pull toys and riding toys (no pedals) are good. Large- and medium-sized balls are fun for catching, throwing into baskets and rolling to knock over a sibling’s block tower. For fine motor development and improved cognition at this age, pop-up toys are good. Picture books with cardboard pages and/or interactive books are good choices. To encourage pointing skills, a toy keyboard is a good choice. For encouraging problem-solving skills, look for nesting cups and 4-5 piece puzzles.

At 2-3 years of age, fine motor manipulation skills are becoming more refined. Good toy choices are Legos, puzzles with small knobs, Magnadoodle, crayons, Colorforms, Magnatiles, stringing one-inch beads, sidewalk chalk, Playdoh, kinetic sand and wind-up toys. Imaginative play is big and, in this regard, tea sets, toy food and kitchen sets are excellent. Dress-up clothes, cars and puppets all tap into the child’s imagination and are good choices as well.

Most importantly, remember to take time out during the day to really sit and play with your baby/toddler. You will see the changes before your eyes, and you will have fun in the process!

 By Stacey Berman Gardin

Stacey Berman Gardin, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist licensed in NY and NJ. She has been practicing OT since 1981. For the past 20 years the focus has been treating children through early intervention. Stacey is a graduate of SUNY Downstate College of Health Related Professionals.

 

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