Sunday, December 13, 2009

Educational Toys for Infants: It's Never Too Early to Start Learning


Infants, meaning children under one year of age, are often the hardest ones to shop for. You want that first holiday gift to be special, but you also want to get the most for you money in terms of toy longevity and usefulness. Here are some things to look for when shopping for educational toddler toys.

Children this age change rapidly. In fact, more growth occurs in the human brain during the first few years of life than at any other time. Choosing toys that help to stimulate this process is a great way to give your child every advantage. But how can you find the best toys for your baby to enjoy?

Make your toy buying decisions by choosing options that stimulate one of the five senses: hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling, and seeing. The best educational toys will make use of one or more of these things.

Hearing
: Choosing toys with audible sounds is an iffy topic. On one hand, children enjoy hearing voices and music that they've come to enjoy. On the other hand, it is not recommended for children this age to have too many noise making toys unless the child has some control over the sounds. Rattles, for example, are generally acceptable because your baby will have full control over the rattling sounds. Other ways to help stimulate your child's sense of hearing is to talk and sing to him as much as possible. Read books together, sing lullabies, and narrate what you are doing as you go through your day.

Tasting: Babies put everything in their mouths. Although this may seem like a strange way to play, your baby is actually learning more about the world around her. By gumming and mouthing objects, she can get a better idea of what they feel like, taste like, what their textures are, and if what their temperatures are. Although there aren't many toys specifically made for your baby to "taste", it's important that you pick some items that are safe for mouth exploration. This can include soft books made from rubber or cloth, blocks with no added paints, and teething rings. Just be sure to disinfect toys frequently.

Smelling: Again, toys are generally odor free but that doesn't mean you can't use them to tie in certain sensory details. Find a book of pictures, for example and then get real items to go along. Show baby a picture of the flower and then let her have a sniff of a real one. This will teach her that the flower smells good.

Feeling: Aside from mouthing toys, babies also use their hands to manipulate and feel the textures of certain objects. To help reinforce this concept, find toys that come in various textures and shapes, Examples include baby friend blocks, texture toys with cloth and crinkle fabric, and books with various textures included inside.

Seeing: Nearly any toy can be used to stimulate your baby’s sense of sight. Books, blocks, stuffed animals, pictures, puzzles, and wall toys and mirrors are all great choices. Just remember that very small infants do not have the same eyesight as we adults. They need colors that sharply contrast in the beginning, like black and white, followed by bright primary colors in intriguing patterns.

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