You Are Your Child’s Best Toy!
We first need to begin by saying; Parent Education has saved us from ideologies that were not known to man centuries ago. The same goes for toys; what toys do you buy? What toys do you accept? Why? Can you even answer that question? Well for many years we met families who could not, and we realized we needed to explain the fundamentals of brain development and the importance of “sufficient”, “crucial” and the “necessary” factors about the toys in your child’s room. Trust me, you might have never known that certain toys can be detrimental if not used properly!
What is Brain Development? Why, do children benefit from having their experiences enhanced? According to the National Center For Infants, Toddlers, and Families, “The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development. A newborn’s brain is about 25 percent of its approximate adult weight. But by age 3, it has grown dramatically by producing billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections, or synapses, between these cells”. At birth the brain is said to be unfinished and underdeveloped, but we know children use their brain to create cognitive skills, emotions, social skills and more. The brain has been said to develop in the world and not in the womb. Are you focused yet? Great, let’s move on. Research shows that 75 percent of a child’s brain occurs after birth! So now take a look in your child’s room and quietly examine all the toys, and pick out what you feel enhanced their brain development, better yet did someone even interact with them while using these toys? Now, this is to get you zoned into reality for your child’s optimal success not to feel down because you might not have been clued on to this topic. When we know better, we do better and as educators we want you to be the best you can be!
Here are 5 Things You Did Not Know About Battery-Operated Toys & Their Effects on Brain Development!
Developmental psychologist Rachel Keen notes, parents and teachers “need to design environments that encourage and enhance problem solving from a young age” (Keen 2011).
- They do not promote math skills, social skills, problem solving skills, and cooperative play, but blocks, hands on objects, and wooden toys do.
- Going back to the basics allows language development to grow. When your child has to interact to play, this is the benefit of high success. There is not much interaction with battery-operated toys.
- Infants and Toddlers brains are dependent on the responses of adults.
- A baby forms 700 neural connections in the first year of life. Now think if this child was playing alone with battery operated or do it yourself toys.
- A newborn is born with most of the brain cells we have for our entire life, but do not know how to connect and use them. This is where we come in to understand how crucial interaction and brain development is for young children.
So tell me what will you go home and do now?
When we think of Play and Structured Play, we immediately realize that observation skills and learning go hand in hand. Both are highly beneficial to your child’s development. Do you often ask, “What is Child Development”? According to Kid Sense Child Development, “Children’s development occurs across a range of skill areas including: physical (motor) skills, speech and language, social and emotional, cognitive and intellectual abilities”. Monitoring of Child Development is crucial to your child’s success, while making sure their milestones are being met. Let’s delve into helping your families use three techniques to take your fun playtime and make it slightly more structured, you can do this without your child even knowing they are learning! Here it goes!
- Introduce (1-2) specific concepts for daily playtime sessions – Choose specific times whether early morning or after afternoon snack to structure your child’s play. Get on their level and engage with them. Find something you know your child likes and set up an activity around it. This could take place at the carpet, table, or outside on a walk. Use props, materials and high energy. Ask open-ended questions, discuss observations, and use visual cues. Your child can go into any direction they choose and you follow their lead, this will make a huge difference for the future. This will offer a wealth of knowledge for the child.
- Create a home model of an educational space/classroom – This can be used for children infant to preschool. Purchase bins, drawers, chairs etc. and turn your child’s entertainment space into an educational realm. This means having everything in its order and all materials having a home. I.E. books on a shelf, small table and chairs for art, puzzle rack, stuffed animals on a shelf, cars in a bin. This will give it a structured look and even free play will be semi-structured.
- Use team building and appropriate social skills on playdates – We encourage children having play dates and or friends. A play date is the perfect time to see what developmental, and social level your child is on. Use special techniques to discuss emotions, proper sharing techniques, and listen to the language they use with peers. Take notes, and see how you can improve these for the next visit. Encourage success using positive words and modeling appropriate behavior.
What is Play? What is structured and unstructured play? Do you ever wonder or think, is my child playing too much or not at all? When my child plays is it even educational or developmentally appropriate? As Early Childhood Development Specialists we are here to tell you, Play can be the most beneficial and important stage of your child’s life from infancy to their preschool years! Wow, You Say! Well come on already, ask us why?
Well according to the Academy of Pediatrics, play contributes to the physical, emotional, cognitive and social skills of your child. Play also gives that time for parents and or caregivers to be fully engaged with the child. With the new movement of academics and curriculum being pushed down earlier, and with the new rush of technology many families are not engaging in play like generations ago. We know there are 2 different types of play; free play– which is when children are left to amuse themselves in any way, and use their imagination without any direction or guidance from adults. We have even witnessed some free play unsupervised for older children. Structured Play-, which is when children are given direction and or guidance in specific activities to broaden and or develop the necessary skills for their current stage of development. Both types are necessary, but more structured play can be utilized with you at home, used with nannies, and or when deciding on how to choose a school for your children.
Below are the top 5 ways to engage in more structured play with your children, to take their individual development to the next level. The key is to practice being in a conscious state as much as possible to notice what you are doing and how to adjust- not to make yourself try to be perfect. Show your children, you can get down and dirty too!
- Provide new ideas and learning opportunities- Next time you are home, or the caregiver is with your child, let the child peruse around to find 2-3 of their favorite toys. Use these toys as an opportunity to ask open-ended questions, discuss observations, and use visual cues and so forth. This will open your child’s mind to answering questions (even if they can not speak). This will further benefit their comprehension and cognitive skills for the future. Make a commitment to begin this once a day!
- Boost up the physical activity and motor play- Do you understand how important active play is for growing children? Make use of a playground, museum, taking a walk, and or playing a movement game at home. Your child will love playing leapfrog, roll over my friend, or hop and jump scooter at home. Make up games, and remember they do not have to be lengthy; using 15 minutes to begin is just as suitable.
- Emotional Tolerance/Social Skills/Team Building- Children need to be given outlets and techniques for handling their emotions. Guiding our children to learn how to behave and what is expected in every situation is crucial. Learning how to work as a team, even if it is just you and baby, or sibling and baby. These are skills for life. Find games to encourage team building, kindness and concern for not only themselves but also others.
- Encourage Their Use of Imagination- In today’s society we do not see many people still dreaming or understanding how important it is to use your imagination. Begin on a weekday and take 15 minutes to create imaginary fun. This will not only boost their self-esteem, but also have your child engage with either words or facial expressions to show you how they are feeling. Encourage the love of books and reading by bringing life into your story time, imagination goes a long way.
- Take notes on your child’s developmental level- This is an important step, begin taking notes about where you feel developmentally your child is. Check out the CDC, website to get a guideline of where your child should be for their age. Use this to challenge them as you create more activities. Have fun, this is what childhood and parenting is all about. You and your child were made for each other and have a special gift together. Work on that gift, master that gift and teach others.