Gift-giving season is upon us, and the options (and advertisements) are plenty. When shopping for a gift for the children in your life, how do you know what’s appropriate for what age?
“As children go through different developmental stages, the right toy for them should target motor, play and cognitive skills. This could mean reaching for and activating a toy, using a toy that encourages a child to practice standing, walking or playing with a ball, or a toy that helps improve balance, coordination and motor planning,” says Magdalena Oledzka, a pediatric physical therapist at HSS. "Toys that encourage children to move their bodies are better than games on a screen."
Kids are also busily developing their sensory abilities throughout the early years. “Toys that allow children to use their imagination, role play and think about concepts like number, size and shape go hand in hand with toys that encourage physical activity,” says Lorene Janowski, an occupational therapist at HSS. “These are critical areas of development that children should practice as they continue to grow.”
Below are some helpful guidelines as you’re doing your holiday shopping this year to help you decide what toys are right for your tyke. As always, make safety a priority. Consider choking hazards, avoiding games or toys with small pieces that can come loose and may be put in the mouth, and always provide proper safety equipment for sports gear (e.g. helmets, knee pads, wrist guards, etc.).
Babies can’t see colors clearly, so black-and-white designs with interesting patterns will catch their attention. “You also want to engage in lots of tummy time to develop belly and rolling skills, as well as reaching for toys and supported sitting,” says Oledzka.
At this stage, encouraging exploration is important, as is reading and playing music. Between six and nine months, help babies to sit on their own and push up from their belly. Once they’re between nine and 12 months, the emphasis becomes crawling on hands and knees.
You can try:
Body awareness and pretend play are the primary purpose of toys for kids in this age group.
Good choices are:
Now’s the time to emphasize following directions, sharing and interaction with peers. Kids in this age group are also ready for more activities and toys that promote movement and coordination.
For more information about pediatric rehabilitation services at HSS, please call 212.606.1137.