It’s impossible not to be amazed by how much babies learn and grow in their first year of life. In just twelve short months, most babies go from being totally hopeless little creatures to being ready to walk and talk (if they aren’t doing it already!) During the second year of life, growth slows down a bit, but your child will still be learning at a rate that is nothing short of phenomenal.
If you’re wondering how to help your child’s brain development, it’s important to remember that Mother Nature has given your child an instinctive ability to gravitate towards activities that will help them develop the skills that they will need later in life. So, there is no need to even think about starting any sort of formal academic training any time soon. Instead, parents can help their children develop by giving them plenty of love and encouragement, talking, reading and singing to them all day long and providing them with plenty of time and space to play with stimulating toys.
Again, children will naturally engage with their environment in a way that helps them learn, but parents can help things along with providing toys that engage the imagination and push children to practice verbal, spatial and language skills. Here are three of the best kid-powered toy choices.
- Blocks. Building with blocks is almost the perfect developmental activity. As children plan what to build and work to carry out their plans, they have an internal narrative going on that will later help them learn self-regulation and delayed gratification. Building with blocks strengthen a child’s spatial skills, fine motor skills and can aid them in shape, pattern and color recognition. Working with a sibling or friend to create a structure is a terrific way to learn and practice social skills.
In addition, blocks make great manipulatives to use later as your child learns counting and other mathematical concepts. Blocks also offer very good value for money as children will enjoy playing with them from toddlerhood all the way up to their tweens.
- Puppets and a puppet theater. Puppets are a great way to help your child practice their verbal skills as well as being a great tool for getting children to cooperate and talking about emotional concepts. Parents of toddlers going through the terrible twos or turbulent threes will appreciate how often their child will be much more willing to take direction from a friendly puppet than they are from mom or dad!
Dramatic play helps growing brains increase their vocabulary, explore emotional concepts and develop empathy and understanding. Older children can use puppets and puppet shows to work together in groups, as a way to practice writing and to help them become comfortable with public speaking.
- Costumes and props. What child doesn’t like dressing up as a firefighter or a chef or a fairy or an astronaut? Costumes and props can add richness to your child’s dramatic play and encourage them to create ever more elaborate narratives. Don’t limit yourself to store-bought costumes, old scarves, towels, shoes, purses, briefcases and sunglasses can all become a part of your child’s dress-up chest.
Along with clothing, provide your child with plenty of props to aid their dramatic play. A mixture of toys, e.g. toy foods, kitchens, tool-sets and so on with old household items that are safe for your child, such as calculators, phones and plastic containers works well.
Jacob Maslow calls upon his experience as a father of five preteen children to write articles about how toys and play can help children learn and grow. He previously worked for an online retailer where parents were able to find a large selection of children’s toys, including puppets and puppet theaters.