Toys may be geared to little children, but they are BIG business. They usually are marketed to select niches. For example: to babies, girls, boys, or special needs kids. In my opinion, that targeting is misplaced. I’m not fond of labels. They’re limiting for one, ‘trapping’ kidlets into expected behavior. In addition, labels can follow a child along have long term repercussions. In my opinion, one label, in particular, burdens a child unfairly and unnecessarily: hyperactive. To me, it’s natural for every young child to be a being in motion and unnatural to expect them to sit still and focus—or try to focus—for extended periods of time.
Nowadays children are transported to school, recesses are drastically reduced or eliminated altogether, and physical education, viewed as enrichment, is also on the chopping block in favor of more instructional time. What’s left is hurry up and sit still which is what a lot of schools—both public and private—require of their young students.
A situation that sets a lot of children up to fail.
This runs counter to early childhood education best practices. What young children need are ample opportunities to use their bodies! To move, jump, run, skip, leap and hop! They need to move their bodies to know their bodies to master their bodies. Plato said, “The right education must tune the strings of the body and mind to perfect spiritual harmony.” Too many schools are just concerned with tuning the mind…
Play is the way children learn best. It utilizes and incorporates the whole child; all developmental domains are addressed as they overlap and interplay with one another. Additionally when play, in its active form, namely movement, is deliberately planned into the curriculum everyone benefits.
So I think rather than grouping toys, say based on gender, it would be more useful to categorize toys on their attributes or qualities. With the exception of safety-related concerns, a good toy is a good toy for anyone and everyone. With that in mind, below are some examples of toys that meet specific needs.
With that in mind, below are some toys that meet specific needs.
Yours in Play!
KEEP HANDS BUSY—one strategy to help redirect and focus wandering minds is for children to keep their hands constantly busy and engaged.
Tangle Jr: Tangle Jr is considered a ‘fidget’ toy; funneling your child’s energy
into the toy instead of fidgeting in their seat. Children can slip it through their fingers, knot it up in their hand, and feel their body’s tension evaporate. As it relaxes their body, it stimulates their brains and improves finger dexterity. It’s a great toy to include on trips or other times when sitting quietly, for a while, is needed.
Playable ART Ball: Playable ART ball is a toy for a mind-body connection. Engaging visually and tactilely, this wooden stress ball can be turned, twisted, and scrunched for limitless creativity while occupying restless hands and/or minds.
MOVE YOUR BODY —because the human body was designed to move! PLUS did you know there’s a neurological pathway between the body’s balance and movement systems to the brain that actually alerts the brain? This makes movement a way for some children to focus and pay attention easier.
Trotter Bounce A-Long Buddy: Yippie-I-O Jumping and bouncing up and down, higher and higher and propelling forward at a trot or ‘gallop’ will work out any cowpokes’ legs while developing proprioception, balance reactions and motor planning skills. In addition to releasing physical energy, bouncing can help to focus attentiveness.
Hopscotch: Hopscotch works large muscles groups. It requires control & precision tossing the bean bag as well as starting and stopping the body on just the right square. It takes a lot of concentration, work and effort which will burn off any excess energy—all while having fun!
Creating & Building Toys—Some children that have behavioral challenges are still creative, bright, and intuitive—positive characteristics we’d all like as adults! Giving these children open-ended toys (for open-ended play) frees them of constraints and allows their creativity to flourish.
SmartMax: SmartMax is open-ended play at its best! Pieces are over-sized to make handling manageable even for younger children and with the aid of magnets pieces go together easily, minimizing frustration, encouraging persistence. Their creations are limited only by their imaginations.
MagFormers: MagFormers is also an open-ended toy that uses magnets to ‘attach’ pieces, but adds variability in ‘shapes’ for pieces. Frustration can be avoided at the beginning by starting out laying the pieces on a flat surface and putting them together that way. After gaining experience/skill, the option for more of a challenge–moving on to building in
space or 3D is always available.
Playdough or Clay: Manipulating dough or clay—squeezing, rolling out, pinching, punching can be emotionally therapeutic all the while it’s strengthening the muscles of the hand. Adding accessories like cookie cutters, rolling pins, and plastic toys—for example, farm animals or forest animals and plastic trees/vines/flowers and playing with dough turns into a creative expression as well.
Squigz: Pliable and soft, fun and flexible, suction construction for open-ended play. They bend. They stick together. They can be put together in ways that are only limited by your child’s imagination! Squigz are engaging as they are engrossing!
Fast Paced Board Games—Playing board games can be tough for some children. They’re juggling with their patience waiting for their turn; remembering the rules of the game; plus trying to pay attention to the game being played by the others. Choosing fast-paced games where there’s not a long wait between turns is a good idea. Also, choosing games that are not too complex, but are easy to follow, will make for a more successful experience.
Count Your Chickens: Count Your Chickens is a no-reading required, non-competitive, co-operative game stressing fun! It’s easy to play with each game taking approximately 10-15 minutes,perfect for a young child.
Rivers, Roads & Rails: Rivers, Roads & Rails is more appropriate for an older child. There are 2 variations available—one more dominoes-like, the other more jigsaw like; the game can have a competitive edge to it OR it can be completely co-operative. In either case Rivers, Roads & Rails will engaged children, requiring them to interact and problem-solve.
PRETEND PLAY TOYS—Imagination, fantasy and pretend games are important for all children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development. It’s a way they express what is going on around them at home or school. It’s a way they can ‘experience life’ from another’s point of view. It’s a way to learn how to cooperate and collaborate in the execution of the play. Because their brain learns and assimilates information through experience, experimenting, testing, etc children are more likely to internalize and remember skills and concepts by doing and pretend play (or dramatic play) is the perfect format.
Does your child seem to have problems making friends? Some children have difficulty picking up on social cues–reading facial expressions or body language–which makes ‘fitting in’ and, therefore making friends, more challenging. Role playing with your young child or using puppets to express different emotions and the corresponding facial expressions helps him/her identify those feelings in others.
Examples of pretend play toys are dress-up costumes, puppets, kitchen sets, and dolls.