What Toys to Buy for Your Young Child

toy safety

Last week, I unwrapped some safety tips regarding how to ensure the toys you buy your child for the holidays are safe ones—so this week, instead of talking unsafe toys,  I’m game for suggesting some appropriate toys to buy for your younger child—especially in an era where digital toys are becoming more and more prevalent.

Match your child’s skills and abilities

First be aware that the best toys are those that match your child’s developmental skills and abilities and help further those skills. In addition, playing with toys is not about making them more intelligent, but to facilitate warm, supportive interactions and relationships.  

For example some basics, like dolls, stuffed animals, action figures can stimulate the imagination or allow your child to use those pretend toys to deal or cope with real life events and feelings—which in turn strengthens your child’s social and emotional development.

Just be careful not to give dolls or action figures that promote gender-based stereotypes. 

Build problem-solving skills

Blocks and puzzles can help children use their problem-solving skills. 

Coloring books, crayons and markers, help stimulate creativity and improve fine motor skills. 

Toys that enhance physical activity like balls or a tricycle can enhance physical development.

While digital toys may have a character read a story to your child, remember human interactions are essential for a child’s growth and development, and that digital toys should never take the place of real face-to-face play. 

Traditional board games and bound books rather than many digital games and digital books targeted for young children allow you to interact and communicate with your child as you read or play a game with them. 

Going digital?

Finally if you are going to buy a digital toy, set screen time limits, and don’t consider them for children under 2 years of age.

For those over 2, consider limiting your toddlers digital toy screen time to no more than an hour a day and use these digital devices with your children rather than leave them to use the toy independently and without human interaction.

If you need more suggestions on suitable toys and games for your child, your child’s health care professional can make suggestions specific to the age and developmental level of your child–all you need to do is ask.

Hopefully tips like these will play well with you and your child when it comes to selecting toys that will enhance their development and human interactions this holiday season.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. 

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