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Article: Play Learn & Grow

Play Learn & Grow

Play Learn & Grow

Gyms & Activity Stations

Play is essential for your child's development. Gyms allow the baby to roll around and move freely. This helps to strengthen their body and develop their muscles. When allowed time on their tummies, babies will strengthen their upper bodies by using their arms to push themselves up. When they grab, kick and reach for hanging toys, they are further developing their hand-eye coordination. The hanging toys, music and bright colors also provide the baby sensory stimulation and aid in their mental development. Gyms are not only enjoyable for babies but help to ease the parents' and caregivers' lives as well, as babies are often fussy due to boredom, which can be a source of stress.

Rattle & Soothers

For centuries, rattles have been one of the first toys that babies have played with. Rattles are good for babies because they provide a source of stimulation. Babies like the sounds they make, and with their eyes, attempt to follow the path of the rattle as it shakes back and forth. Many rattles have a dual function - they double up as teethers as babies grow. They have textured surfaces that are easy on the gums and provide the stimulation that babies need.

Teethers are designed to make it easier for babies to grip and put them in their mouth. Babies find it very soothing to chew on something hard that offers adequate resistance, and tender gums feel better when a light pressure is applied. An important thing to keep in mind when choosing a teether is to verify that it is safe for a baby to put into their mouth. Choose only phthalate and BPA free teethers for your child, and ones that use non-toxic paint.

Developing Motor Skills

As your baby grows, they need lots of opportunities to help their muscles do the same. You can foster large- and small-motor development with the simplest toys and equipment (or even none at all).

Large motor skills (or gross motor skills) will give your baby the strength and coordination they need to progress from sitting to all manners of physical activities and sports. Move your child from crib to floor or from tummy to back and vice versa, stimulate different muscles and encourage different movements (like push-ups from their tummy or leaning forward to reach a toy when they're seated upright). You can show them what to do by moving their arms and legs yourself, pulling them up into a sitting position or lifting their belly into a crawling posture. Eventually, your baby will take over and start practicing on his or her own.

Small motor skills (aka fine motor skills) are also important. Eventually, these skills will enable your baby to feed and dress his or herself, to draw and write etc. Giving them lots of objects and textures to handle and explore will strengthen their hands and fingers and make them more sensitive and dexterous. Toys that boost fine motor development include blocks, balls, stuffed animals, dolls, activity boards, and household items (be it the real thing or toy versions) such as kitchen utensils, remote controls, and keys. Finger-plays, and songs with accompanying hand motions such as "Pat-a-Cake" or "Itsy-Bitsy Spider", are also activities that build skills.

Developing Social and Emotional Skills

The development of social and emotional skills begins within the first few hours of life and continues throughout one's lifetime. The best way to develop these skills is by allowing your toddler to interact and play with other children. This will begin to lay the foundations for key skills such as sharing, cooperating, listening to others, regulating their own emotions, dealing with emotions in others and social problem solving. Playing with siblings or children who are younger and older than them will also benefit your toddler's social and emotional skills. Rolling and kicking a ball to your toddler and having them return it is a great way to foster turn-taking and sharing. At the end of your game, make sure to praise your toddler on a good game of turn taking, so they start to understand this concept.

Puppets are also great toys for developing social skills. Young toddlers might like to wear one on their hand as they go about their daily activities. Older toddlers might like to play games with the puppet or use it for imaginative play. They will also enjoy talking to the puppet, which is ideal for developing communication and social skills. You could even put a puppet on your hand and initiate a conversation between other puppets.

Developing cognitive skills and curious minds

Cognitive skills that are developed during childhood can have lasting benefits – such as making it easier to face challenges and difficulties, as well as nurturing the ability to act responsibly throughout life. Get your child off to the right start with a good selection of educational toys. For example, sorting, sequencing, counting, memory and puzzling games help to develop problem-solving and creative thinking.

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