WHICH TYPES OF TOYS SHOULD I BUY?
In the previous part we talked about Why less toys?
In our previous posts we talked about why kids toys should be kept minimal. We also talked about how we could go about it by making mindful choices about the kinds of kids toys to be purchased based on expert opinion.
Based on the recommendations from the previous post, here are 8 best types of toys for kids. In a later post, we will categorize toys by different age-groups.
- Open-ended toys: These are toys that have no clear end-objective. They can be used creatively in a myriad of ways to express multiple things. They help kids foster imagination and creativity. Some toys that fall under this category are:
- Construction toys like Lego, Fisher Price construction block sets for older kids and the larger versions like Duplo and Megabloks for toddlers have been staples of kids toy chests. They are classics for a reason. They can be used by kids to replicate what they see in real life or use it to create imaginary worlds. Often times, the best use of construction toys occur in combination with loose parts toys which we will read about later in this blog.
- Wooden blocks: Wooden construction blocks add a sensorial element to the construction toy. Most toy shops stock basic wooden blocks but ensure that they are safe and have child-safe colours.
- Magna tiles and Tegu, rods : Magnetic blocks like magna tiles, magformers are becoming more readily available in India in some websites. Tegu blocks combine the best of both worlds, they are wooden magnetic blocks but they hard to find and are expensive in India.
- Montessori, Waldorf toys: Montessori and Waldorf toys like the pink tower, froebels gifts, rainbow stackers are both sensorial and are open-ended. They lend themselves to a variety of play scenarios.
- Pretend play: These toys actively foster imagination. Kids learn everything through imitation. Pretend play gives kids a safe space to experiment and explore imaginative scenarios. Some toys that fall under this category are play-kitchens, Doctor sets, work bench sets, doll-house, even loose toys like cars, animal figurines, peg dolls, dolls form part of pretend play toys. These toys can be used complement with the open-ended toys to create further new scenarios of play.
- Puzzles for toddlers and preschoolers progress from the simple two part puzzles that fulfil a certain objective like "images that go together", "opposites", composite jigsaws of varying sizes. Best puzzles for two year olds would be self-correcting jigsaws while the best puzzles for three year olds would be simple floor puzzles with 10 - 30 large jigsaw tiles. This helps kids figure out a few things like, smaller pieces make a whole, creating from memory, sensorial exploration of ridges and smooth edges.
- Arts & Crafts: Arts and crafts are as open-ended as they get but still, we have not included them in that section for a reason. This teaches kids to create from scratch, where tools only enable or visualize a kids imagination. Every kid should have an accessible arts corner containing some basics like different types and textures of paper, colours, brushes, stickers, scissors, and glue. As a parent, you can make this entire process more exciting by foraging things around the house or garden to create new raw materials for this section.
- Musical instruments: There is numerous research about how music positively affect brain development in the early years. The human brain responds well to rhythm and tone. Our earliest memories are after all the rhythmic heartbeat of our mothers in the womb. All musical instruments make exceptional toys, from the most basic rattle to a scaled down version of a piano or a drum set. There is music and then there is sound. Always prefer music creating toys over sound making toys that play at a push of a single button.
- Gross motor toys: Simple indoor ladders, ride on toys, tricycles, bicycles make the best kids toys. They develop gross motor skills and teach balance, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination. Some new, and interesting toys in this space include Pikler's triangle, wobble boards, balance planks, and river stones.
- Fine motor toys: Beads of varying sizes, lacing, threading, and sewing based activities fall under this category. They help the kid develop the small muscles of the palm and hand. Fine motor activities develop essential pre-writing skills.
- Sensory play: It is impossible to discount the value of sensory play in a kids life. Sensory play often gets reduced to only tactile play but it could cater to other senses as well. Clay, painting, mud kitchen, kinetic sand or simply sand play, water play, tactile boards, busy books all fall under this section.
All these types of toys needs to be supplemented with copious amounts of reading books, outdoor time, involving kids in daily chores and of course, tonnes of hugs, kisses, and cuddles.
Just a note that, you need NOT buy all these toys. Just a few of them from across categories will be enough for kids of different age groups. The only non-negotiable in the nestery's opinion is the arts and crafts category.