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Why Educational Toys for Children?

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Why Educational Toys for Children?

Why Should We Give our Children Educational Toys Why Should We Give our Children Educational Toys

Educational Toys for Babies - Why?



by Robert Grossmann

Standing in the section of our shop brimming with developmental and stimulating infant toys and products, one of the most often asked questions I get from just about everybody is: "Why do infants today need stimulating developmental toys? We never had any and grew up all right!" Very true (in most cases). But times have changed. We now have two income families and families that live further apart than when they used to. In many cases there are no relatives to be found in the same city, province, or even country. The world around us moves at a much faster pace than it used to and deadlines are common everywhere, not just at the local paper.

What's the net effect for baby? Parents that have less time to devote to their children (much as they would like to), and Grandma isn't coming over three days a week with cookies for Mom and an entire afternoon of entertainment for baby, with the rest of the week filled with remaining family and friends.

Does that sound like I'm going back two generations? Perhaps so. Can we go back to the way things used to be? Of course not. Truth is, most infants get a lot less personal interaction with family today than they used to, and this is not going to change. This is neither good nor bad; it's what we make of it. Realizing that infant care is not the same as it used to be is probably a good first step towards a happier and healthier baby. I think we all realize that there is no substitute for feeling Mom's heartbeat, a parent's touch or voice, or any other personal interaction with parents. But parents can't be, nor should be, the sole entertainer all the time.

So how do we go about selecting developmentally appropriate toys for baby? First, ask questions at your local specialty store. We're here as much for advice and information as for products. Second, try to understand how a child's brain develops. Ever noticed how an infant can stare, for long periods of time and as if hypnotized, at a graphic panel with research-correct graphics? It's because the high-contrast patterns stimulate areas of the brain forming neurological connections for visual development. In other words, they are key, not just in infant development but all the way through early childhood and way beyond. Because the neurological firestorm of activity in the brain starts with the last trimester of pregnancy, infants are much happier when placed in a stimulating environment right from birth. You may want to reconsider that pastel nursery, as infants can't see pastels at all and it takes most toddlers almost a year before they can register soft colours. In fact, infants up to about three months can only distinguish black and white contrasts. That doesn't mean you have to do your nursery in black and white, but try primary colours.

At about three months it's time for toys that move from looking to doing. Good rattles and clutching toys should feature high contrast graphics with bright colours. Toys should promote two-handed play, passing from one hand to the other, and the beginnings of understanding of cause and effect: if I shake it, it rattles, if I don't, it won't.

At about six to nine months, baby develops a fascination with object performance, or the fact that something hidden still exists. The idea is mindboggling for a developing brain, and the right toy will keep baby creatively occupied for long periods of time.

At about a year, baby enjoys a wide range of creative occupations: favouring the use of one hand over the other, flipping pages of a cloth book, playing peek-a-boo with the mirror, and stacking and nesting soft chewable objects.

This firestorm of neurological activity has now developed a brain that is getting ready to coordinate 225 muscles to take that giant first step. The most important factors in an infant's environment are people -- the parents and others who interact with babies. But a stimulating environment also includes interesting things for a baby to explore with the senses. Because of the world we live in today, babies given appropriate sensory stimulation show sustained developmental advantages over infants in less stimulating environments. Developmental toy, anyone?





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