Timing of gifts are as important as the gift itself. The ages stated on toys are both for safety and for children’s cognitive abilities. Buy one too early and you might frustrate your child; buy one too late and they’ll be bored. This is another reason to purchase toys that appeal to all ages, inspire creativity and imagination, and can be played with differently as your child grows and matures. This post discusses Stacking Cups and Push Toys.
A toys that works at most ages: Stacking Cups
– 4-6 months: watch parent spin them on floor, reach for them as grasp emerges, mouth them
– 6-7 months: Bang two together with one in each hand
– 7-8 months: Passing single cup hand to hand
– 10 months: Container to put things in
– 12-14months: Rolled on floor, picked up from floor, playing hide and seek for the cup, using as a container to put things in AND dump them out
– 15-17 months: Stacking
– 17+: Stacking higher and higher and KNOCKING it over in fun, novel ways :-), sorting, more complex games! Watch your child play with them to give you ideas how to jump in, join THEIR world and help expand it.
A toy that should be delayed before introduced: Push Toy
A push toy often has 12 months of age associated with it, but that is assuming your child is walking. A push toy should NOT be introduced before your child is walking independently. Many people believe that it can be a walking aide that teaches a child to walk. In fact, it encourages movement compensations that impede independent walking and encourages taking forward steps with heavy leaning on hands. Walking with a push toy before independent walking is also a safety hazard because the child cannot control the speed or direction of the toy, which can get away from them. Their protective extension (arms forward to break a fall) is not yet fast enough to always help them catch their inevitable fall.
However, once a child is walking well, push toys are FABULOUS! Small grocery carts can be filled and emptied and transported place to place. Parents can make the cart heavy by placing gallon cartons filled with water into the basket (or allowing kids to use many small water bottles so they can do the heavy lifting), requiring stronger pushing and pulling. Obstacle courses can be set up to steer in, out and around, encouraging problem solving with the inevitable crashes (and, unbelievably, providing a foundation for prepositions in language!). It is also a great core workout–just think how much your abs need to work to steer those wayward grocery carts in the store! And of course, it allows your little one to do a “mommy/daddy” job and trains them for using the “customer in training” carts at the stores!
Timing is key when first introducing toys. Appropriate expectations for play will help you to make smarter selections. Kids are always drawn to novel things, so rotating toys every few weeks will rekindle interest in old toys and give you an opportunity to see how they approach their toys differently. Ultimately, engage with them in the play: first observe what they are doing, join in to be with them in the moment and then help them expand OR be amazed as they push YOUR limits!
Have fun! Play lots! Be SILLY!