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Raising children is all about making them responsible adults who can make the right choices and live a happy, healthy life independently. One of the most important aspects of raising a child is play. Play is the work of childhood. But if you give children a lot of shortcuts and present them with all the rewards without them having to do anything, you are not letting them do what they must do.
Today with a market that is exploding with choices and the razzle dazzle of toys that can blind most parents into making inappropriate choices, it is all the more important to know what to keep in mind while choosing toys for babies, toddlers and young kids. Apart from safety aspects like natural materials and age appropriateness, there is also the aspect of discovery and exploration.
Toys are tools with which kids discover themselves and the world around them. The right tools can make all the difference to the final result. Toys that help a child explore his world and his own interests are best. This means toys should play a supportive 10% role in any playtime, while the remaining 90% should be about the child. If you give a child wooden toy blocks for instance, some might build a tall tower while others might build a low and long wall, yet others might build a tunnel and some might build steps. But if you give a gadget with a screen, no matter how many bells and whistles it has it will lead every child down the same path to the same end game as it makes no allowances for individual differences and interests.
Getting the child simpler toys that spark the imagination or encourage curiosity will help the child discover their own paths. While choosing toys try and get ‘open ended toys’. This would mean that a child can use them in a variety of ways and in many different places. A deck of playing cards for instance can be used for a traditional game or for playing your own versions of it. You can include several players or play solitary games. This helps children explore several options and find what they like best.
Another option while choosing toys for toddlers and little ones would be to pick traditional favourites. All-time winners like sturdy wooden toy cars and trains sets have stood the test of time because they mimic real life even as they take each one on their very own imaginary ride.
Problem solving skills and persistence are qualities that every parent wants for their child. Toys that lead you down a set path do not encourage problem solving. While choosing a toy, see how it will help a child solve a problem. Mosaic puzzles and building sets like Ninjaki challenge the imagination and encourage creativity and innovation skills that a child can use as they get older and solve real world problems. When something does not fall into place at once, or has several solutions, it encourages the child to try again and again till they succeed.
Play is indeed the work of childhood and it enables the parent to equip their child with the right tools for a lifetime of success. You can choose to keep it simple and let your munchkin discover the joy of playtime as you do so!