Benefits Of Toys And Brain Development In Toddlers

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By Veselina Dzhingarova

brainBrain development in toddlers is a reflection of how they understand the world around them. A great portion of this understanding is inherently developed during the first year of life where they learn to trust their senses. By the time they reach 18 months, they will already be supplementing their sensory experiences with other activities that are brought about by their interactions with the toys that we give them as well as their social interactions with other people. For the most part, toys have a great influence in their cognitive development. Here are some of the benefits of toys on the brain and cognitive development of toddlers.

1. Stimulates Curiosity

Toddlers are deemed natural explorers. Because of their improved motor skills and renewed confidence, they tend to explore a lot of things which would help them make sense of the world around them. Find toys that stimulate their sense of exploration and allow them to discover new things around them. By the time they reach 3 years old, they will already be bombarding you with a lot of “why” questions. It may be annoying sometimes because there is no end to their questions. But this is exactly how toddlers learn. Toys help them become naturally curious about certain things in their surroundings.

2. Helps Understand Cause-Effect Relationships

By age 18 months old, toddlers will already be able to understand simple causal relationships. They will already have an idea that a particular action will lead to a certain reaction. This can provide the basis for their ability to predict outcomes as well as identify potential consequences of any given action. Toys that help facilitate this understanding are thus, beneficial for brain development in toddlers. This can help them in the development of their creativity and imagination as they now have an idea of what will happen if they create or do something.

3. Develops Ability to Plan

Toddlers by age 2 years will already begin choosing and planning for their own playtime activities. This is because of the continuing maturity of their executive control systems, meaning, they are now able to take full control of their body movements particularly control of their limbs. This allows them to think of how best to use those movements to accomplish a certain task. Make-believe and pretend play toys can help toddlers make rough plans on how they need to carry out the game.

cutekids4. Learns Object Permanence

Young kids have this idea that an object that cannot be seen is an object that is not existent. That is why they love very much playing with peek-a-boo simply because of the magic of the disappearing face. However, by the time they reach 2 years of age, toddlers already begin to understand object permanence. This simply means that toddlers are getting more efficient at playing hide and seek. This also means that they can now play with toys that allow them to search for clues and other objects. Puzzles and sorters will fit this bill perfectly.

5. Improves Concentration and Focus

While the attention span of a toddler is a measly 6 minutes, giving the right kind of toy can drastically improve this by keeping him interested and focused on the toy itself. This is where high quality toys can be differentiated from mediocre ones as the former can sustain a toddler’s interest for prolonged periods of time. This can help improve their focus and concentration which can also help improve their overall cognitive development.

There are other benefits of toys on toddlers’ brain development. Suffice it to say that toys are the instruments upon which a child’s growth and development are formed and enhanced.

The Parent’s Role In Child Development Programs

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kidsIt’s no secret that a child’s education plays a significant role in her development during early childhood and is a determining factor in her success as an adult. Helping young children to acquire the skills they need to progress and develop along the prescribed timeline is one of a parent’s most important jobs. Understanding the role that parents play in the development and expansion of new skill sets in early childhood allows you to work more closely with the preschool or child development center program you’ve chosen, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the curriculum and reinforcing lessons learned on a daily basis.

Communicating with Teachers and Administrators

As the parents of a little one who’s enrolled in a child development program, you are essentially the liaison between your child and her teachers or center administrators. Your preschooler may not have the vocabulary or the inclination to explain to you that there are areas in which she is struggling, or subjects in which she needs additional attention. The teachers and instructors who work with her every day, however, will be both able and eager to give you progress reports and relevant information about your child’s development. In addition to having a more accurate view of her academic, cognitive and physical development, you’ll also be able to learn more about her conduct and areas within the scope of social interaction and skill where she may be in need of extra help.

Maintaining Progress at Home

cutekidsWorking closely with the teachers and aides at your child’s preschool or early childhood development center allows you to get an accurate view of not only what’s expected of her there, but what she’s capable of at home. Your child will live up, or down, to the expectations you’ve set for her. If she’s responsible for clearing away her own place after meals, hanging up her own jacket and putting away art supplies after a lesson at her preschool, that means that she’s clearly able to perform those tasks with some degree of accuracy. Operating under the misapprehension that your child isn’t capable of doing some things for herself can have detrimental effects on her development, simply because she’s not exercising the skills she’s learning at preschool at home. Building a functional relationship with your child’s teachers and program administrators allows you to form a more accurate view of her capabilities, and helps you adjust her routine at home accordingly. Parents who wish to take an active role in their child’s progress through a developmental program should also take the time to learn what’s being covered under the lesson plan and what’s up next on the curricular agenda. Make a point of working on those skills at home, too. If your little one is learning how to write her name in preschool, she should be practicing at home to hone her motor skills and boost the muscle memory and letter recognition that will fuel her progress. Remember, education and learning don’t stop the minute your child walks out the door of her preschool or child development center.

Choosing the Right Childhood Development Program

Working with your child’s teachers and taking an interest in her progress through a child development program is essential, but it’s even more important that you make the correct initial investment by choosing the right program and center. Priscilla Williams, who holds a degree in Child Psychology and Early Childhood Development and is the President of the Especially for Children network of nationally accredited child development centers in Minnesota, states that “selecting a childcare center that has national accreditation will provide parents assurance that the center has programs that properly address all the important developmental goals for your preschooler.” By making sure that you’ve chosen an accredited center with a strong curriculum, you’ll be actively investing in the first step of your child’s long and illustrious academic career. Remember that this is just the beginning of your child’s journey along the essential path of education, and take steps to ensure that the program introducing her to the concept of school and learning is one that will make a positive impact on her. The ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, asserts that preschool is “the most important grade,” and that their research confirms the long-term benefits of participation in such programs. By choosing one that is both accredited and of a high quality, you’re actively fulfilling the important goal of providing your child with the tools she needs to succeed throughout elementary school, high school and beyond.

– Submitted by Sarah Tucker of 4 Nannies.

10 Reasons Outdoor Play Is Crucial To Healthy Child Development

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twokidsunThe iconic image of the idyllic American childhood was, not so long ago, based around the idea of spending long summer days playing outside and exploring the neighborhood until the streetlights were illuminated. Today’s fear-driven culture might make it difficult to send your kids outside for the entirety of a day in good conscience without supervision, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be relegated to a lifetime of staring blankly at a television screen, playing video games or cooped up in a community center to stay safe. When safe, sane practices are adhered to, time spent playing outside is not only fun, but also essential to your child’s healthy development and growth. These are ten of the reasons why you might want to think twice before discouraging outdoor play, and how spending time outside is actually good for your kids.

Honing Motor Skills – Kids need to run, jump, swing and tumble in order to hone their basic motor skills, something that just isn’t as easy to do in the restrictive confines of structured, indoor play. Even if your child isn’t able to safely roam the neighborhood with a group of his friends, he still needs plenty of outdoor time to push himself physically so that he’s able to refine those skills.

Vitamin D Absorption – While it’s imperative that kids are properly protected from the sun’s burning and potentially cancer-causing rays, it’s also important that they get 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure in order to fight off vitamin D deficiency. Unlike vitamin D in supplement form, it’s impossible for a child to naturally produce too much vitamin D in response to sunlight, so letting your child play outside for even a few minutes is typically the best course of action when it comes to combating deficiency.

Encouraging Imaginative Play – Playing with the same set of toys in the same room every day doesn’t give your child much room for imaginative, creative play, which is essential to both cognitive and social development. The great outdoors, however, offers an almost endless array of inspiration for invented games and make-believe scenarios.

kidsunningtogetherAcquiring an Appreciation for Nature – Kids who rarely spend time outdoors grow into adults who generally don’t spend much time outdoors, causing them to effectively miss out on all that nature has to offer. Encouraging play that takes place outdoors allows your child to become accustomed to and gain an appreciation for nature, and no television show or Internet video can replicate that.

Learning the Importance of Environmental Stewardship – The children of today are the stewards of tomorrow’s environment, and they need to learn the importance of caring for the planet from an early age. Get your kids outside and talk about the environment and all the ways that it needs to be protected while enjoying the great outdoors. Before you know it, you’ll have an active, eco-conscious youngster in the making.

Expending Energy – Shouting, climbing, jumping and running aren’t encouraged indoors. In fact, these activities that are so necessary when it comes to expending energy and blowing off steam are usually downright forbidden inside the house. Letting your child burn off some of that energy outside has benefits for both of you, as well as any fragile belongings in your home.

Exploring and Investigating – Kids need to encounter new and interesting things to keep the spark of natural curiosity burning, because that curiosity is an essential part of both creative thinking and a thirst for learning. There’s not much to explore between the couch and the refrigerator, but your own back yard can be a veritable goldmine of activity and wonder.

Pushing Boundaries and Taking Safe Risks – No parent wants their child to engage in risky behavior, but safe risks are an essential part of learning and confidence building. Kids who push their own boundaries by testing their abilities are more confident, more active and less likely to suffer from the low self-esteem that plagues so many of today’s youth.

Reducing Exposure to Germs – There’s a reason why colds and flus seem so abundant in the winter time. When stifled in rooms with little fresh air and relegated to close quarters with others, germs spread from host to host with ease. Outside, airborne bacteria can be swept away on a light breeze, rather than finding a new home in your child’s body.

Fulfilling Kids’ Need for Freedom – As a parent, your first instinct is to keep your child as close and as safe as possible. While it is your job to ensure that no harm comes to them, it’s also important that you allow them enough freedom to explore and assert a bit of independence. Letting your kids roam the lawn, even if it’s fenced in and you’re standing on the porch, or play on the playground while you’re sitting on a nearby bench, can fulfill a bit of that need for freedom that’s so important to their growth and development.

– Submitted by Molly Cunningham of Live In Nanny.