The Answers to Parents

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All in one place for the first time, parents can find answers to the many questions that come up all through a childhood.

 

 

The Answers to Parents Most Common Questions

 

Which toys are appropriate?


Play is an essential part of growing up. While a child plays freely, he satisfies his curiosity and finds out how to use objects; he learns to plan and classify; he begins to evaluate, predict, question, discover, draw conclusions, and solve problems; and he also learns how to inter act with his peers and imitate the people around him. A child whose play is not controlled and channeled by adults (“The colors in that painting should really be blue and green.” “If you pile any more blocks up, your building will fall.”) Gains confidence through play and rarely has a fear of failure.

Some parents minimize the importance of play, looking instead for “educational” or prepackaged activities for their child. But he doesn’t need these in order to learn. Parents best nurture his drive to learn by following up on his interests, giving him many opportunities to play, and providing appropriate toys and materials.

The following are simple suggestions for age-appropriate toys and activities. The list is by no means complete, and toy stores are filled with new and traditional items. The ages listed here are quite flexible. One child will enjoy a toy at eighteen months, while another child won’t play with that toy until he is two or three years old. Some return again and again to toys they used when they were younger. And a child with an older sibling will get an early introduction to toys intended for older children. As your child grows, he’ll let you know which toys interest him and which activities he wishes to pursue.

Birth to six months

An infant likes to look at objects around him. By three to four months, he may be accidentally batting toys with his hands or feet, and by four to six months he may intentionally try to touch and grasp objects. During the earliest months you can hang mobiles from the crib or ceiling, put a safe mirror against the side of the crib, or secure a colorful pinwheel to the hood of the baby stroller. Once he grasps objects, you can provide soft toys that can safely go in his mouth and that won’t harm him if he bumps against them: a rattle or squeaking toy, teething beads, toys with faces.

Six to twelve months

Once your baby can sit up, attach a busy box to the side of his crib. He’ll enjoy one with buttons, dials, pop-ups, and other things he can control. You also can give him kitchen items to play with such as pots and pans, plastic bowls and spoons, and a spill-proof container filled with water that he can shake and watch. He’ll like cuddly dolls, squeeze toys, soft cars and trucks, large balls, hollow blocks made from heavy cardboard, and cloth or cardboard books. You can make books for him by slipping pictures into a photo album.

Twelve to eighteen months

Your child will enjoy trucks or cars he can sit on, push-and-pull toys, doll carriages, plastic lawn mowers, wheelbarrows, a two-step kitchen stool he can stand on to see high places, pounding boards, toy telephones, music boxes, rocking toys, outside and indoor climbing equipment with ladders and slides, and adults’ shoes he can walk around in. He’ll also like simple toys he can take apart and plastic bottles with tops to take off and put on.

Eighteen to twenty-four months

Your child will enjoy stringing large wooden beads, screwing and unscrewing bottle caps, using a punching bag, pushing a toy shopping cart, using plastic tools, playing with balls of different sizes and shapes, arranging magnets on the refrigerator, and playing with stuffed animals. He may be happy for long periods playing with sand or water if he has shovels, pails, measuring cups, sieves, funnels, and plastic bottles to use. Although he will not be able to pedal yet, he may enjoy a Big Wheel or a small bike without pedals.

Two to three years

A child this age may enjoy rubber, plastic, or wooden animals, dolls and dolls’ accessories; a play stove, refrigerator, and sink with dishes, pots, and pans; dress-up clothes; a play house; a doctor’s kit; large blocks; cars, trucks, a play firehouse and fire engine, and a toy garage and gas station. Most two- and three-year-olds can use pens, paint, crayons, chalk (fun to use on the sidewalk), big paint brushes to use with water outside, and when closely supervised, child-size scissors. Your child will probably have fun jumping on a mattress that’s flat on the floor, kicking a deflated ball that can’t roll away from him, and riding a tricycle. He’ll also like using puzzles, playing musical instruments, and listening to CDs or tapes of folk, classical, or children’s music.

Four to five years

A child this age will like using arts and crafts materials such as pens, pencils, markers, scissors, tape, glue, string, play dough, clay, water colors, tempera (which can be mixed with soap flakes to help prevent stains), and finger paints. Wagons, Big Wheels, and bikes with or without training wheels are fun, as are balls, bats, Frisbees, bubble blowers, kites, bowling pins, balance boards, old tires to swing or jump on, and bean bags to toss. Some of the most popular games for this age group are Candy Land, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Sorry, various matching games, Fish, and Old Maid. You can try offering your child practical things to play with, such as flashlights, magnifying glasses, whistles, simple tools, old household objects he can safely take apart, or a bank and coins; rakes and snow shovels; a funnel, pump, and egg beater to use while playing with water and bubbles; and a large plastic needle for sewing burlap. Your child may enjoy building with Tinker Toys, Legos, and all kinds of blocks, and may want
to make forts and houses out of blankets or large cardboard boxes. You can help your child make a puppet theater from a table turned on its side; he can run the show with play tickets, play money, and a toy cash register. A child this age is influenced by his friends and by TV and may want whatever toy other children have.

When you provide toys for a child of any age, avoid giving too many that limit creative play. So many toys can only be put together and used in one way, and if your child spends all his time with such toys, he’ll have little chance to make his own creations. Instead, look for toys that can be used in a variety of ways, and ones that allow him to use his imagination. For example, instead of buying kits of shrinkable plastic with predrawn pictures, buy the same plastic, without the drawings, at a craft store. Then your child can make his own designs.

As you buy toys, you may find that your child becomes intensely interested in a new plaything for several weeks and then loses interest. This is common, although it may be disturbing if you’ve spent time and energy shopping for the right toy, one your child said he “wanted so badly.” He loses interest for several reasons: he may have quickly exhausted the entire toy’s play possibilities, he may have mastered the toy, figuring out how it works, or he may be frustrated because it isn’t made well or is difficult to use.

To get more use from your child’s discarded but almost new toys put them away in a closet for several months. When you take them out, they’ll seem unfamiliar to your child, and he may become interested in them again. He may even think of new ways to play with them, since his interests and his play are always changing.

 

 

 

 

 

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