Toy Choices for Your Older Toddlers
Your older toddler has distinct characteristics and abilities that should guide our choices for toys they will love and learn from
When we consider choosing toys for our older toddlers (who are never, ever, actually really terrible!) let's look at their physical, mental and social abilities and interests in the same way we viewed the younger toddlers in my earlier article. Let's make sure the toys we choose are developmentally appropriate.
Physically, older toddlers are skilled at most simple large muscle skills and do lots of physical testing. They jump from high places, roll, gallop, sommersault and rough and tumble wherever and however they can. Older toddlers like to throw and retrieve objects. They have good finger/hand co-ordination by about the age of 2 1/2 to three years of age. Lots of active play with small objects and exploration of different types of materials is of high interest to this age group.
Mental interests include the attributes of objects: texture, shape, size and color. Matching, patterning, grouping, sequencing, are emerging skills to be mastered. Drawing, constructing, painting and cutting are all more important as a process than leading towards a final product. Children are able to begin to solve problems with materials, situations and other children.
Imaginary play becomes somewhat more complex and is frequently carried out alone or with an adult (parents are still a primary interest) and begins to include other children. Language is developed enough to enable children of this age to express their wishes to others. Hearing simple stories is a favorite, especially those with repetition read from picture books. Older toddlers have a strong need to establish independence and show a great pride in accomplishment.
Some suggestions for appropriate toys will include similar toys as those listed for younger toddlers although older toddlers will use them with more skill and detail. For example push and pull toys have many similarities such as doll carriages, wagons, small wheelbarrows. However you may consider adding pull and push toys that look more like adult items such as lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, cars, etc. Riding toys may also be more realistic looking, such as small motorcycles. When children are able to pedal (around 21/2 to 3), small tricycles are a wonderful addition.
All outdoor equipment needs to be supervised by an adult at all times that it is in use. Climbing structures and slides, tunnels, swings, are all appropriate for this age group. Child sized sleds that are shorter in length than the child's height. Balls of all sizes are appropriate but especially large balls which are at least 1 3/4 inches in diameter.
Construction toys would include solid, wooden blocks, as well as large hollow buildings blocks and large plastic brick blocks. Also fascinating for this age group would be interlocking rings, large nuts and bolts. Puzzles would begin to be more intricate, ranging from 4-12 pieces. Knobs are still a helpful addition to puzzle play.
Manipulative toys that fit together with about five to ten pieces and nesting toys with multiple pieces including toys that require a screw type motion Number counting boards with large pegs, shape sorters, pounding, hammering toys, dominoes, lotto matching games, large colored beads, (at least 1¾ inches in diameter), lacing cards, dressing books and dolls, frames for buttoning, lacing, snapping and hooking. Sand and water play toys such as nesting tub toys small boats (no metal parts) small and large sandbox tools.
Make believe play becomes more detailed and developed at this point. Lots of soft bodied baby dolls that are more realistic with hair and moving eyes. Doll accessories that are simple and sturdy such as changes of clothes (with easily removable garments using large hook and loops, or large snap fasteners), bottles, blankets. Also: lots of stuffed toys and pliable animals having mother and baby combinations. Small and large puppets are an age old standby.
Musical instruments would include all rhythm instruments such as bells, rattles, cymbals, drums, triangles, xylophones, sand blocks. Horns and whistles may be added around 2½. Art and Craft materials at this stage become pre-writing tools: large crayons, non-toxic finger and tempera paints along with short handled brushes with blunt ends. Play-do, markers, blunt ended scissors and chalk and construction paper.
Games begin to be interesting; such as: lotto matching games based on color pictures, dominoes and board game with only a few pieces. Role play materials would be the same as for younger toddlers including dress up clothes and costumes, realistic looking equipment such as child sized stove, refrigerator, sink. All housekeeping equipment such as pots and pans and dishes would preferably be real rather than toy. Toys that can be pushed such as vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, shopping carts and full length mirrors. Trucks, small realistic cars, large trucks and trains with moving parts.
Books are a most important addition. At this age sturdy books with heavy paper, cardboard pages will last more easily. Stories should be short and simple with more pictures than writing, using clear color and few details.
A rule of thumb when choosing toys for your child: the more the toy does the less your child learns from it.
Toys that invite creative imagination, such as those mentioned above, will develop your child's skills and intellect. Keep your toy choices developmentally appropriate for the highest level of enjoyment and learning for your child. Take time to play together and have fun. That's the parenting perk!
About the Author
Ursula Ansbachis the owner of the online furniture store at: http://www.MyBabyFurniturePlus.com. She is also a parent, grandparent, teacher and educator who lives on the shores of Lake Erie with her family.