THE FIRST 1000 DAYS
Play Skills – Connection Between Toys and Brain Development
Play has a vital role to play in a child's development. It is through play that children can explore their environment and make sense of new information. Their experiences of play help strengthen and expand the networks of connections in their developing brains. As your child's brain is developing, many more connections are made. The links that are used regularly become more robust and branch out into complex networks. Therefore, play is crucial for brain development. It offers opportunities for your child to experience new things and practice already existing skills, which further strengthens networks of brain connections.
One can apply Piaget's stages of cognitive development in this context. In the first stage, the sensorimotor stage, your child begins to explore the world with their senses. This stage starts when your child is born until they are about two years of age. They will look out at things and may put them in their mouth. It is also in this stage that they learn cause-and-effect; they shake a rattle and learn that moving it creates a sound, for instance. Toys that can be held by your baby can be given like rattles and mobiles. It is also in this stage where your child develops the gross motor skills of reaching and grasping. For older infants, toys involving transferring objects from one container to another can be given to them. When your child progresses to the preoperational stage, they engage in pretend play; this stage is from two years of age to about seven years of age. For example, your child may pretend that their hand or a building block is a phone. Toys like cooking sets, dollhouses, cars, and trucks can be given to your child in this stage of cognitive development. They also participate in role-playing. Essentially, toys seem to enhance play. They provide an opportunity for your child to be creative and imaginative.
Additionally, toys bring you and your child together in play. Early brain development is enhanced through such relationships. Toys provide a bridge for your child's interaction with you and other caregivers. However, toys should not be used as a substitute for the unconditional and loving attention that you give to your child; toys only enhance these interactions. When you play with your child, their learning is enhanced. You can observe their skills and help expand them. You put forward ideas of what else your child can make with building blocks. Your child's self-esteem and level of mastery improve when you play with them. Toys facilitate the development of relationships as you and your child share in the mutual joy and delight of discovering something new.
Through play, your child makes connections in their brain; they learn new skills and practice old ones. Toys seem to improve your child's play experiences. They are material with which your child can develop and improve their ability to be creative and imaginative; they develop flexible thinking. They learn about cause-and-effect relationships. Certain toys may help develop specific skills like visual-spatial skills and the like; LEGO and puzzles, for instance. By playing with toys with your child, you can enhance their learning. They also learn how to play with another person, thus aiding in social development.
Bales, D. W. (2019). The Importance of Play. Retrieved from: https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C105310&title=The%20Importance%20of%20Play
Frank, C. (n.d.). Choosing the Right Toy for the Right Age. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/choosing-right-toys-for-right-age#1
Glassy, D., Romano, J. & Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care. (2003). Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children: The Pediatrician's Role. Pediatrics,111(4), 911-913. DOI: 10.1542/peds.111.4.911
White, J. (2019). How to Boost Your Baby's Brain Development. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-build-up-a-babys-motor-and-cognitive-skills- 284366