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The Ultimate Toy Guide

It is quite safe to say that nary a human being will pass the opportunity for a look around a well-organised and attractive toy shop. What is it about the sight of all these playthings that make us go weak? Fond memories? Of course! After all, we have come a long way too from playing with our own stock of toys when we were kids. So, what are we offering our offspring in terms of toys today? It is a taste of our own memories or the call of the day?

The true objectives of toys

Try questioning a small group of parents today about the objective of a toy and you might get varying replies. While some may view a toy as something to keep their little one busy or distracted, some may view it as an object to spark off creative thinking. Still others may view a toy as a learning tool while some may find toys as objects that should be part of growing up, no matter how they are used.

When we take into consideration how much time our children spend with their toys, it inevitably becomes much more important for us to make conscious choices about what we give to them to play with. While many of us are with the fond memories of toys we loved and cherished when we were young, is it alright to offer our children toys based on what made up happy during our own childhood? Also, how many toys should a child have in his or her toy basket? The more the better, or just a few really ‘good’ ones?

At the end of the day, parents’ choices on what kind of toys their children play with will leave an impact on their little ones’ childhood memories and experiences. Here, we have compiled some ideas on the kind of toys that coincide with a child’s age. We also offer you some different ways of looking at toys and playtime. We hope you can make the most of all these info so that you can bring out the best in your little one through play!


Could you be unwittingly restricting your child’s creativity?

A toy, like say, a doll, for instance, with a perfect face and features is certainly lovely to behold, even for a child. In fact, it’s already so perfect, there isn’t much to do with it. However, if a child had an opportunity to create a face for that doll, it would be akin to an unwritten book of expressions that the child can fill up with his or her own creativity. In other words, (dolls aside), present them with finished products, regardless of how beautiful it looks, and we will have unwittingly limited their own resourcefulness. Give them just enough to stir their imaginations and you foster true creativity in children!

Here are some things to look for when selecting toys for your children, according to the Waldorf approach to education through play.

  • Good quality, durability
  • ‘Playability’
  • Anything healthy for humans and the planet
  • Natural materials that feel good to all our senses – including visually beautiful toys, toys that feel good to hold.
  • Toys that can be put away in 5 minutes
  • Non-competitive, social toys
  • Toys that are toys – where ‘learning’ is not forced.

Resist showing kids how to play

It’s important to allow your children to discover the role and objectives of toys themselves. Why show them what they ‘should’ do with a toy when they can have so much fun doing whatever they want to? If parents could just let go of their expectations when it comes to play, they will be rewarded by a peek into a child’s wonderful imagination and potential!

Toys for infants from birth through 6 months

Babies are gazers and they love to pass their time staring at people and following them with their eyes. They seem to be fascinated with faces and never seem to get bored studying a person’s eyes, nose, mouth, brows, etc. They also love bright colours, not that we’re hinting that you should paint your face like a clown. Colourful, attractive mobiles hung over baby’s crib will do the trick instead! Babies also love to check out their own hands and feet and often try to pop them into their mouth for a taste.

Toys for 7 to 12 months

Older babies are constantly trying to move around! They tend to go from rolling over and sitting, to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. Their attention span is very short. Most babies this age enjoy trying to find hidden objects, and putting things in and out of containers.

Good toys for older infants:

  • When in the mood for some pretend play, they will enjoy playing with puppets, dolls, plastic and wood vehicles with wheels, etc.
  • Typical of babies this age, they might also love playing with plastic bowls, large beads, balls, and nesting toys – anything that they can pile up, stack or take apart
  • Things to build with – large soft blocks and wooden cubes
  • Large balls, push and pull toys, and tunnels to crawl into are excellent to exercise their large muscle groups

Toys for 1-year-olds

One-year-olds can hardly ever stay put long enough to pay attention to anything other than their favourite TV show! They might enjoy well-narrated stories though, and can also play next to (but not necessarily with!) other children They like to explore and need constant adult supervision.

Good toys for 1-year-olds:

  • Things to pretend with—toy phones, dolls (with doll houses), baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” vehicles
  • Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures
  • Things to create with—wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and large paper
  • Things to build with—cardboard and wood blocks
  • Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects
  • Large pegboards, puzzles, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and small balls

Toys for 2 – 3 year-olds (toddlers)

Toddlers are rapidly learning language and have some sense of danger. Nevertheless they do a lot of physical “testing”: jumping from heights, climbing, hanging by their arms, rolling, and rough-and-tumble play. They have good control of their hands and fingers and like to do things with small objects.

Good toys for toddlers:

  • Safe wood puzzles (with 4 to 12 pieces), blocks that snap together, objects to sort (by size, shape, color, smell), and things with hooks to hone their building skillsbuttons, buckles, and snaps
  • Blocks, smaller (and sturdy) transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (kitchen sets, chairs, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, etc.
  • Large non-toxic, washable crayons and markers, large paintbrushes and fingerpaint, large paper for drawing and painting, colored construction paper, toddler-sized scissors with blunt tips, chalkboard and large chalk – All to encourage the hidden artists in them
  • Large and small balls for kicking and throwing, ride-on equipment, low climbers with soft material underneath, and pounding and hammering toys, all for some healthy exercise!

The benefits of open-ended play/toys

Children are more intelligent than you think and when left to their own creativity, they may amaze you with their capabilities!, They tend to be more receptive to ambiguity than those who are constantly restricted when it comes to playtime. Children need free, undirected play for creative growth, self-reflection, and decompression. Play is a “happy talent” and open-ended play helps foster happy talent in a relaxed way. Here are some of the ways open-ended play works:

  • No pressure. With no expectations from parents and no predetermined outcome, open-ended play does away with the pressure of having to accomplish or achieve something out of playing. It allows children to focus on creating based on inner inspiration. During play, children have choices and decisions to make. This format offers great potential for self-discovery.
  • Leave them with their ‘mistakes’. Since trial and error is part of open-ended play, unintended mistakes cause children to pause and wonder. “Errors” produce fascination and foster new creation and when left to their own devices, self-initiating behaviors are developed.
  • A sense of true, kiddie freedom! Open-ended play gives children a sense of freedom and autonomy to develop initiative and self-confidence. They enjoy making choices themselves, affirming their ability to be responsible and self-directed.

Examples of good open-ended toys:

  • A stick
  • A box
  • A rope/piece of string
  • A cardboard tube
  • A spade, a bucket, and some sand/dirt/snow
  • A ball
  • Wooden Blocks
  • Large pieces of fabric (silks are lovely: anything will do!)
  • A doll
  • Jars with lids

What are ‘closed’ toys, then?

Basically, they are toys with specific functions or have a clear, ‘right’ way of playing with them. These toys may come with a manual even, directing parents on the correct way to play with them. Gender-specific toys also fall smack into this category for they restrict imaginative play for little boys and girls and direct them away from avenues of empathy and understanding the opposite gender.

Toys you can do without!

  • If it’s broken, throw it out! If it’s a soft toy, you can put it on a ‘to mend’ pile if it can be mended.
  • Toys with missing pieces. They defeat their purposes, so why keep them around?
  • Anything developmentally inappropriate – Toys they have grown out of, or not yet grown into.
  • Anything ‘fixed’ in concept. These leave little or nothing to a child’s imagination.
  • Anything that requires you to buy more of to make it work/keep it working. These toy concepts are questionable as they seem more of a sales strategy more than anything else.
  • Anything that comes with social pressure for you buy more/ collect. Only buy what you think will benefit your child.
  • Anything too complicated or that breaks easily.
  • Anything that requires batteries, makes electronic noise, flashes – generally high stimulus.
  • Anything annoying, offensive or which encourages corrosive & dangerous play (evil characters / war games).
  • Anything environmentally unfriendly or toxic – made of plastic.
  • Anything that ‘forces’ learning – it’s just not as fun as figuring things out.

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