By: Jeannine Moyer, teli Physical Therapist
When looking for toys to add to your holiday list, consider those items that help to promote your child’s development, particularly in the area of gross motor skills. Think of what skills your child currently has, and what he/she will be working toward in the coming months. Four general skill categories for infants and toddlers, in order of development, are:
Brand names are not that important, but sturdiness often is. Many items can be found at second-hand stores to bring the expense down. The following are not recommendations or an endorsement of particular brands, but rather provided as suggestions for the skill they reinforce. Also note that these toys can be found at a variety of retail locations or online.
Tummy Time Toys
A colorful mat often keeps baby’s interest – many are under $30.00. Some brand names to search under are: Bright Starts, Tiny Love, Boppy, and Skip Hop. If the mat has dangling toys for the baby to use while lying on their back, make sure they can move out of the way to make tummy time easier.
Tiny Love Tummy Time Fun Activity Mat – Frog
A mirror at baby’s eye level can encourage them to hold their head up longer, push up on their hands, and stay on their belly longer. Sassy and Bright Starts have nice versions.
Sassy Crib & Floor Mirror
Use other visually stimulating objects that will encourage your baby to turn his/her head side to side for neck strengthening. There are many musical light up toys that catch baby’s eye easily.
Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube
A seat helps support your baby while learning to sit unsupported. Some brand names include Bumbo, Summer Infant 3-Stage Superseat, Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat. Having your child reach up for dangling toys on a playmat can help develop trunk muscles while sitting in one of these seats, or while sitting with your support.
Summer Infant 3-Stage Superseat
Some development-promoting toys to play with while sitting include nesting/stacking cups, ring stacker, cloth or rubber blocks, pop beads, board books, and knob puzzles. If your child is sitting independently, having him/her reach for toys and return to upright can develop trunk rotation and postural control.
Early Years Farm Friends Pop-It Beads
Toys that move away from your child as they sit can encourage crawling movements. Some examples include balls and plush toys that “crawl”. Fisher Price has a Disney Minnie Mouse version, VTech has an Explore and Crawl Cub, and Bright Starts has a Roll & Glow Monkey.
Bright Starts Roll & Glow Monkey
Sturdy toys that your child can pull to stand and hold on to while playing will help develop leg strength. There are a variety of activity tables available. Most are educationally based with music and learning activities. Workbench, play kitchens, and water-tables can also promote standing, and possibly some cruising. These items are difficult to find for under $30, so here’s where resale shops are helpful. Some brand names to search for are LeapFrog, Fisher Price, Bright Starts, VTech, Playskool, Step 2, and Baby Einstein.
Fisher Price Laugh N Learn Puppy and Pals Learning Table
Push toys can help little ones learn to walk, but sturdiness is very important for this particular item. Look at the design to try to determine if it will easily tip when your child puts weight through the handle (most lawnmower and baby stroller type push toys tip over too easily and are designed for children that can walk independently). There are many brands available, including Kolcraft, Melissa & Doug, Hape, Fisher Price, VTech, Bright Starts, Playskool, Little Tikes, Peradix, and Constructive Playthings.
VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
Toys that promote repeated movements between standing and squatting are also great for this stage of development. These toys typically have a mechanism where you put a ball or car in the top and it rolls down to the bottom. Fisher Price and Bright Starts are a few names to consider.
Bright Starts Having A Ball Hide n’ Spin Monkey
Higher Level Motor Skills
Ride on toys with or without pedals are good for developing coordination. Rocking toys give vestibular input.
Little Tikes Go & Grow Lil Rollin Giraffe Riding Toy
Climbing structures such as small plastic slides can help children develop body awareness and motor planning skills.
Step2 Play And Fold Jr. Slide
Trampolines or inflatable bouncing apparatus’ can help develop jumping skills, but safety is of utmost importance. Many trampolines designed for use by children have an attached handle for them to hold on to. Others have an enclosure such as netting surrounding it.
Little Tikes 3’ Trampoline