I lay in bed this morning, trying to catch a few zzzs while Shane took the morning shift with our 5-month-old son. I could hear his high pitched shriek followed by endless giggles. As much as I desperately wanted sleep, I couldn’t get enough of how delighted he was to be playing with daddy. As much as daddy would love to sleep in past 4:30 a.m. he also admits that he loves his special morning time when it is just the two of them.
For me, this is what toys are about. Time spent together whether it is playing a board game with family and friends, having tea parties with my nieces as they prepare me a pizza with lettuce, or reading my son his wordless crinkly book. Toys are a prop to help children learn and explore their environment, and who better to go exploring with than you! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published some guidlines on picking out the best toys for you kiddos – something those in the toy business have known for awhile. The best toys don’t have to be costly or extravagant or trendy. As the AAP states “A toy’s most important attribute is its capacity to bring the parent or caregiver and the child together in playful interactions that are warm and full of rich language, supporting the parent-child relationship and the child’s social-emotional and cognitive-language development.”
Play isn’t frivilous, there is a lot of learning going on. Stuffed animals, play food, dolls, and cars help children imitate and practice real-life. Motor skills and problem-solving are developed with blocks, puzzles, and trains. Crayons, clay, and musical instruments build creativity. Expand your child’s language through reading and board games. Bow and arrows, sleds, balls, push toys, balance boards, and hula hoops get kids moving. You don’t always have to get them something you think they’d like; if you get them something you like – they’ll love playing with it with you.
My Christmas wish is not to sell out the entire store (though that would be grand), it is that everyone slows down a bit and plays together. And it doesn’t have to be at 4 a.m.