1. SHAPE SORTER: A shape sorter sounds simple, but it has a lot of value. For a child who has just started sitting, place the shapes off to their side or far out in front of their body, but still within reach. By leaning forward or to the side, they are developing core muscles which will provide stability when they get ready to walk.
For an older child, it’s a great tool for learning to identify shapes. It also strengthens eye hand coordination as they work to insert the shapes into the proper opening.
2. SIT TO STAND: This Fisher Price Sit to Stand Giraffe was one of my all time favorites. For a child who can stand with support, it forces them to work on balance and coordination as they pick up balls, push them through the top opening and watch them come down a slide.
3. ACTIVITY TABLE: An activity table is also great for a new walker or soon to be walker. It’s the perfect height for a toddler to manipulate buttons and levers while working on stability and balance.
4. RIDE ON: For a child under 2, a tricycle may be too difficult to peddle. This ride-on will engage their core, back and leg muscles as they push themselves forward with their feet. It’s a really fun toy that provides a bit of a workout.
5. LEGO BLOCKS: Lego’s are a wonderful tool for building eye hand coordination. The Duplo blocks are a perfect size for toddlers and easy to manipulate. For older children, working with the small Lego’s will hone their fine motor skills. For children of all ages, it is a great toy for encouraging imagination.
6. PLAY-DOH: This is another simple product that has been around for ages. It’s important for toddlers to develop and strengthen the muscles in their hands. These are the muscles that will eventually allow them to properly grip a pencil and cut with scissors. Have your child squeeze, press and roll while they work to create almost anything out of Play-Doh.
7. GEARS: Playskool’s Busy Gears has entertained my children for hours. The pieces are easy to manipulate on the magnetic board. Young children love watching the gears go around while the older children enjoy finding many different configurations. This toy is very durable and quite entertaining.
8. SPINNING TOP: A top is lots of fun for babies, but it also strengthens arm muscles and improves eye hand coordination. In addition, your child is learning about cause and effect as they press the plunger and see the balls roll around inside.
9. SIT N SPIN: I have vivid memories of spending time on this when I was young. Aside from the fact that children just love to spin, the Sit N Spin works many muscles in their growing bodies as they pull and push to spin themselves silly.
10. FRIDGE PHONICS: The Leap Frog Magnetic Letter Set is a marvelous educational toy. In fact, I really like the Leap Frog products in general. Place this on your refrigerator and it helps your child learn letter names and letter sounds. It’s an electronic toy that is surprisingly not irritating to listen to.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gizmos and gadgets for your little one. With just a few key toys, you can entertain your child while promoting their growth and development at the same time.