Managing the toy story at home
How your child plays with toys will also help you understand what your child likes or dislikes, and how she has assimilated behavior patterns around her.
For example, if she is constantly punishing her doll and "making her stand in the corner", you know where it's coming from! You can also help her understand how to be fair, how to share, follow rules and behave appropriately - through her toys, by joining her during play time.
Be age wise
It's best to get toys your child will play with and not put away in the cupboard. And we pick up educational games from trips abroad, travel and geography games that require some brain-work and not just mechanical play.
There are, of course, factors that decide the age-appropriateness of a toy. We invest in toys that are easy to operate but at the same time help stimulate mental activity. Buying on a need basis is a good idea.
From Birth to One Year:
Early experiences may actually change the structure of the brain (this is when the brain is growing and interconnections between the nerve cells occur at a rapid rate).
Stimulation is important. For infants who are beginning to observe, focus and reach out to hold, colorful toys such as rattles and cot mobiles are great buys. String together teeters, rattles, soft toys and hang them from the cot - they work just as well!
And in order to encourage the development of your child's hand eye coordination, invest in a play gym - it is fun and functional. Buy one which can be used from infancy till about 18 months old.
Suggestions: Baby gyms, rattles, teething toys, interlocking plastic toys, soft toys, musical toys, squeakies, shape sorters, stacking blocks.
From 1 to 2 years:
As her motor mechanical skills develop, buy her toys that entail pulling, tugging or putting pieces together. Get her pull-along toys - toys that make a sound and move, such as cars. Give your child a variety but don't impose your ideas of what he should play with - if he likes to play with dolls, let him, no point in creating gender bias.
Wood toys, blocks, doll houses and animal puzzles too are good choices. Babies of this age love to play with water so buy her a set of bath-time toys - ducks that she can have with her in her tub. You can also buy her little pails that she can use to fill with water.
Whatever toys you pick up for this age, remember that the emphasis should be on developing their motor-mechanical skills/hand-eye coordination rather than "educating" them, therefore let the baby simply enjoy playing.
Suggestions: Bath toys and books, toys to ride on, push-and-pull toys, picture and alphabet blocks, stackers, age-appropriate jigsaw puzzles, dolls and action figures, touch-and-feel books, books that "do" things such as pop-up books.
From 3 to 6 Years: This age group's byword is "imagination". They start imagining environments and stories, and use role-play modeled on what they see around. They enjoy playing with other children their age, and games for two or three can be started now. Craft helps to improve and enhance their motor skills.
Suggestions: Vehicles (tricycles and bicycles), Mecca-no- and Lego-type construction toys, puppets and dolls, simple puzzles, books, simple musical instruments, creative craft.
From 6 to 9 Years: As they start to take an interest in what's going on in school, what they are learning about fascinates them. Phenomena in the world such as the magic of science, the mystery of math, and the natural world become the themes of their play time. Try new themes with them in toys and games, and provide them more mental stimulation with their toys.
Suggestions: More complex building games, creative craft kits, thinking oriented puzzles, musical instruments, books, dolls, electronic games, action figures and subject-oriented board games (jungle safari, geography-based games and so on).
From 9 to 12 Years:
Games that increase their "I know this" quotient (they love to show off their knowledge at this age) and those that require strategic planning. Toys themed around any hobbies, art-and-craft kits and computer/video games are most likely to catch the fancy of this group.
Suggestions: Sports stuff, board games, science and other modelling kits, musical instruments, electronic games and books.