As babies develop into toddlers and later into young children, there are certain developmental milestones they will reach along the way that will enable them to interact and engage with the world around them.
These fundamental milestones that young children acquire at key stages mark a certain point in their development. They are the foundations that the child needs that enable them to progress further. In turn, this allows them to build upon their skills and knowledge, enabling them to learn and become gradually more independent.
What are the Developmental Milestones?
Developments such as mobility, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, muscle strengthening and communication are all important so that one day, your little one will be walking, talking, eating and manipulating objects just like any other adult.
Many of the milestones, skills and abilities that your child learns as they grow come naturally to them but they can’t do it without your help as they rely on imitation, experimentation and feedback. They learn to communicate as you interact with them and to engage with the world around them as they explore and feed their curiosity.
However, not every child develops at the same rate and some children may face barriers, but the toys you provide them can help them come along the way. Even though it may not always seem apparent, toys are not just for fun but can actually help a child build on their motor and memory skills, learn new concepts and strengthen key muscles they need to use on a daily basis.
How Can Toys Help Nurture Development?
Some of you reading this may ask yourselves “can toys really help development?” and the answer is that yes they definitely can. In fact, many toys designed for babies, toddlers and young children are actively marketed as being beneficial for their development.
Exactly how the toy helps your little one does depend on the type of toy it is, and the functions it has. For example: a toy that helps the development your child’s communication skills will most likely have a function that involves naming certain shapes, animals or numbers when the corresponding button is pressed.
Let’s take a look at the specific developmental milestones by age and what type of toys would be beneficial for them.
Babies 0 – 12 Months Old
A baby becomes a toddler when they reach approximately 12 months of age and in this time they vastly improve their abilities, social skills and sensory awareness. The time spent as a baby is time spent strengthening muscles to eventually sit themselves upright and have the strength in their arms and legs to move around.
Toys for babies are rather simplistic but still have an important role to play. The main objective of baby toys is to encourage the baby to reach, grasp and manipulate with their fingers in order to increase their dexterity, puzzle solving and coordination.
At the earliest age, your baby will not be able to move very much and so toys that can be attached to their play mat, feeding chair or bassinet are greatly appreciated. These encourage the child to reach out and investigate how the parts move and interact in interesting ways, sometimes producing sound.
Baby toys should also feel diverse to touch, awakening your baby’s awareness of different textile sensations. Some parts of the toy can be soft and have a crunchy feeling when grasped while others can be hard and have a patterned texture.
As your baby progresses past the 6 months mark they will often begin to crawl and attempt to communicate with cooing, babbling and giggling. Toys that your child can move around with are good to keep them using and strengthening their muscles!
Further down the line, it would be beneficial to have toys, like activity tables, that encourage them to stand up to play. They can use the table as support and this encourages them to stand and take their first steps so that they can move on to their next stage in life: becoming a toddler.
Toddlers 12 – 36 Months Old
By 12 months old your child should now be able to walk to some degree and can often even walk independently without stumbling too often. By 15 months old, they will be able to use a limited selection of common words, respond to “no”, recognise names and name at least 2 different body parts.
Their vocabulary is starting to increase and so toys that speak to your child, and those that help them expand their vocabulary are helpful. For example toys that cover the basics are helpful e.g. certain animals, numbers, shapes, body parts, household objects, etc.
Speaking toys also help to give the child an idea of certain thematic concepts, commonly the presence of pigs, sheep and horses on a farm, and wild animals on a jungle are all popular and fun themes. They often have music too, increasing your child’s understanding of music and language at the same time!
As toddlers become more motile, they become ever more curious about the environment that they find themselves in, and they will increasingly want to walk, crawl and climb into any place they can. Toddler climbing toys are a safe way to give your kids a chance to exercise, explore and climb without getting into dangerous situations.
Refining their dexterity and ability to manipulate objects still plays a huge role in their development, especially when it comes to their creativity. Giving your toddler mess free finger painting toys, toy musical instruments and building blocks will allow them to begin to create their own art and get a huge confidence boost from doing so.
Child 36+ Months Old
When your little one is walking, talking, climbing and performing daily tasks independently, such as dressing themselves or playing imaginatively, they have officially left toddlerhood behind and entered childhood.
At this age, they have many of the base skills and abilities needed to gear them up for kindergarten. They will be much more social; being able to hold conversations, build relationships and follow more complicated instructions.
They are also usually starting to develop their own personal interests and passions with some children also going onto further their skills by doing the things that they have a real passion for.
With that being said, the best toys for kids who are older than 3 years are not only fun and educational but also help them explore their passions and encourage them to experiment with other hobbies that they have shown interest in.
For example, if your child likes the outdoors and shows an interest in plants, bugs and animals maybe they would like to try out gardening. A great toy would be a kids gardening set that is semi-realistic and functional so that they can help to plant flowers or fruits and vegetables.
This also helps to engage them in the concept of where food comes from and may even encourage them to eat their greens if they have a hand in growing it themselves!
Other kids might take to creating music as a hobby and so a childlike instrument, such as a guitar, violin or drum set would be wonderful. They can express their creativity which could in the future evolve into a hobby that they’re passionate about or who knows? One day develop into a professional career!
There are many toys out there that will aid the development of your child, no matter stage of development they’re in. As babies they’re just starting to recognize how their bodies can move and be used to interact with the world around them.
By the time they reach toddler age they’ll be walking and talking to some degree and so toys that help them to improve their motor skills, as well as their vocabulary are a great support for them.
Once they start to become more aware of their own unique likes and dislikes and developing their own personalities they have officially reached childhood where the world is their oyster. They can use the skills and abilities they learned from earlier stages to begin developing hobbies and interests which practical toys can help facilitate.
And so some toys aren’t just an object for entertainment, they’re valuable educational tools to help you ensure your child builds the confidence and skills they need to progress in life. When you’re next shopping for some toys for your little one, ask yourself whether your child has a balanced set of toys to help nurture their development in all the key developmental areas.