Posts Tagged ‘fine motor skills’

Best Learning Toys and Activities for Young Toddlers

Friday, August 15th, 2014

269Hooray! You have a walking toddler who can get into everything. This is a great time to start working on fun, learning toys and activities with your little one. Many parents are overwhelmed with the gifts their little one receives at their first birthday. Use this occasion to request learning toys. These toys will get plenty of use and can be passed down to younger siblings in the future.

Here are a few of my favorite toys for this age:

1. Play Kitchen: My daughter was lucky enough to get a hand-me-down kitchen for her 1st birthday. The kitchen, complete with a microwave, dishwasher, and oven, was her favorite toy for months. Toys that encourage make-believe play are fun for little ones and parents alike. Children at this age love to show emotion and please their parents. My daughter loved to make me some fake food and have me sample it.

2. Puzzles: Peg wooden puzzles are a great toy to encourage learning in a young toddler. Most of these puzzles come with large knobs, perfect for little hands, and some even make sounds. Choose a puzzle that has a theme that your little one seems to enjoy. My daughter loves puzzles still at 23 months. She is very into airplanes, trucks, etc., so her favorite puzzle right now contains these objects. Remember that your little one may become frustrated, so start slowly with just 1 or 2.

3. Ride-On Toys: This is the age where little ones can start exploring ride-on toys. These toys help with gross motor development. There are so many you can choose from and for a variety of prices. My daughter received a Little People Shopping Cart at 16 months. At first, she was a little skeptical. Now, she rides on it almost daily and pretends she is on the phone at the grocery store.

4. Crayons and Coloring Books: Hooray for crayons! Crayons are a fun, cheap toy that little one this age enjoy. Remember to get washable ones, however. Pick a fun coloring book out for your little one and encourage them to scribble on the page. Coloring has been known to improve fine motor skills, and it’s also very therapeutic and peaceful for mom.

1. Board Books: You can never have too many books for a 12-18 month old. No mom wants to read the same thing over and over. Choose a variety of books. Books that focus on first words are a great toy to start with. Touch and feel books were my daughter’s favorite. Lift-the-flap books and hidden picture books are fun, as well.

So, moms, what were your favorite learning toys at 12-18 months? Remember, learning can be fun!

Karyn is a mom of one and one on the way. She still reads several books a day to her daughter and makes weekly trips to the library to get new ones. 

Great Toys for Grasping and Pinching

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Great Toys for Grasping and PinchingIn the sixth month of babyhood, your little one is discovering how to unfurl his or her hands and start to use them actively.

Babies begin to reach for toys close in sight and grasp at toys placed in their hands. They’ll begin to pass toys back and forth from one hand to the other and move toys around to explore the movement and objects from different sides. There is no shortage for baby toys marketed to this age, but some are better than others for encouraging this developing motor skill of grasping.

Activity Gyms

For babies that are not yet sitting up, activity gyms are a great way to encourage grasping at an object. Simple toys can be hung from the bars of the activity gyms, which usually incorporate crisscrossing bars over a play mat. Initially it is difficult for babies to grasp with accuracy, especially if the object of their aim is moving. An activity gym allows babies to set their sights on a toy and reach for it, successfully swiping or grasping it.

Simple Toys

Very first toys should be simple and minimal. Babies do not need, and may actually be over stimulated by, complex multi-colored toys. Montessori Interlocking Discs are the perfect first toy to introduce to your three month old to encourage grasping. They are sized well for grasping, and encourage the baby to move his or her wrist in order to pass the toy to the other hand. A simple rattle is another great first toy, allowing your baby to explore cause and effect while they shake it and pass it from hand to hand.

Stuffed ToysGreat Toys for Grasping and Pinching

Some babies enjoy small stuffed animals at this age and may begin to attach to a favorite. For the three to six month age, a stuffed animal no larger than eight inches is ideal, simply to ensure that they can grab it and manipulate it. There are a number of small, simple, and organic options available, like this  Baby Doll. Another great stuffed toy for this age is the animal lovey, which combines a small stuffed animal and a small blanket. At this age children are beginning to identify differences in texture, and may start to show preferences for especially soft items. Be sure to avoid stuffed toys with plastic eyes or buttons, ribbons, yarn, or bells to eliminate potential choking hazards.

Textured Play Mats

Homemade quilts or manufactured play mats often incorporate different fabric textures and have rings or hooks sewn into the edging, allowing you to attach a familiar toy for baby for grasping while baby is on his or her stomach. High contrast mats, think black, white, and red, are great for giving baby something interesting to look at during tummy time. Textured play mats are also convenient for travel, allowing you to transport baby’s entertainment to a hotel or family member’s home easily. For those crafty mamas, here’s an awesome tree play mat, and here’s an example of a high contrast play mat.

Texture Books

You can never start reading out loud to your baby too early. Babies learn language from hearing the unique inflections, pitch, and varying sounds as they hear you speak and read. Reading gives children the opportunity to hear vocabulary they may not hear from typical conversations, and allows them to hear the unique rhymes and cadences common in children’s books.

Choosing books that have unique textured pages is an excellent way for babies to learn how to interact with a book, helps keep their interest, and gives them tactile stimulation as well. Simple baby ‘touch and feel’ board books are a great place to start and will encourage grasping at the different textures on the page. Books with predictable rhyme patterns and repeated phrases are also fantastic first books for babies.

Teething Rings

Simple wooden or silicone rings are a necessity to have on hand at this age. The typical three-inch diameter ring is the perfect size for baby’s newly grasping hands. The three to six month age is often marked by the initial signs of teething; you might notice extra drooling and gnawing on fingers.  Simple wooden teethers are great for giving baby a little bit of relieving pressure on those sore gums!

Claire Dodge is a wife and mother of two toddlers living in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. She is a Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth instructor and helps her husband part-time in his prenatal and pediatric chiropractic office. She loves all things natural living and attachment parenting, and loves to get lost in books, yarn, and a good run.


Can Music Make Your Baby Smarter?

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Can Music Make Your Baby Smarter?Of all the activities my three-year-old daughter and I have done together music classes have been one of the most enjoyable. When she was four months old I enrolled her for a summer session of Music Together. We’re just finishing up our fourth semester, and I have already signed up for the next one.

The classes themselves have been a lot of fun, but watching her flourish musically has been amazing. She bops to the music, memorizes all the songs, makes up her own words and loves playing instruments. One of the great things about most music classes is that there’s usually no age restriction, so you can start as soon as you feel ready. Even though most of the classes are somewhat structured, children are encouraged to participate and have fun so you don’t have to worry about a short attention span.

Some of the most popular music classes are Music Together, Musikgarten, Kindermusic and Gymboree. While they’re all slightly different, they tend to follow the same basic style. Each class focuses on parent-child involvement, letting them play instruments, vocalize at different pitches, sing fun songs with accompanying movements, and make rhythm a whole-body sensory experience.

The babies and toddlers are just having fun, but they’re doing so much more. Babies will respond to music by making their own sounds, advancing language and vocal development. Lots of movement, including dancing, rolling, marching and kicking helps develop gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are used when they grasp and release instruments and move them from hand to hand. Being around other babies and parents also gives them an opportunity for social development.  Studies have shown that babies who participate in interactive music classes smile more, communicate better, and show a more sophisticated brain response to music.

Some of the music programs have strict start and stop dates, but others will let you join at any point in time. Gymboree even offers a free trial class so you can see how your baby responds to music before signing up. Music is such a fun way to learn– you’ll both have a great time making music together.

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor focused on nutrition and green living strategies. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception, through pregnancy, lactation and beyond to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mother and baby.

A Fun Way to Recycle Broken Electronics

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Recently when I pulled out an old CD player to use, I discovered it had finally bit the dust. I was actually a little happy about it. Why? Because old electronics provide a fun hands-on learning activity for kids!

I put the CD player aside; saving it for the right time when I needed the boys to keep busy with something and they had the attention to be engaged for a while. The “right time” turned out to be this afternoon while I was making dinner.

I cut the cord off the cord off the CD player and set it out next to JJ’s (age 5) tool box on the coffee table. (This approach is sometimes called “an invitation” or “strewing“). The tool set consists of real working metal tools that are made for children. The tools are slightly smaller and lighter weight than the traditional version. I found the set on clearance for $10 at Lowe’s and gave it to JJ as a Christmas present. He loves having his own tool box. He will use them for pretend play such as “fixing” his bike as well as for real projects.

One fun way he enjoys using his tools is to take things apart. Kids often have a natural curiosity about how things work and enjoy taking things apart. I grew up with a little brother who was always getting in trouble for “breaking” things…but honestly he couldn’t help himself. He had to take things apart to figure them out. He now makes a living as an engineer. 🙂

In addition to being fun and engaging, there are cognitive benefits to this activity such as development of problem-solving, reasoning, organizing, strategy-building and analyzing skills. Also working with tools provides children ample opportunity to develop fine motor skills. This is a perfect activity for my oldest son who struggles with fine motor tasks. He’s not very interested in drawing or writing, however hand him a screw driver and he will persist with determination to unscrew each and every screw! Using children’s natural interests and internal motivation is a great way to maximize their learning.

Once they have taken everything apart, the pieces can be used to rebuild something of the child’s imagination. For example one idea might be to build a robot out of the pieces. This particular take-apart-project had a ton of little screws to undo. JJ saved them all for another project he has in mind. He has some scraps of wood that he likes to use with his tools, so I have a feeling the screws from the CD player will end up in a piece of scrap wood. Which highlights another benefit of this activity; it teaches kids to be resourceful and re-use objects in a new way.

Do you have some old, broken electronics collecting dust in your basement? Why not pull them out and let your kids take them apart?! It’s fun and educational and FREE! Although be sure to follow these safety tips:

1. Supervise children using tools, especially if they are newer to using them

2. Have children use safety goggles and gloves when working with tools

3. Use an electronic device that has not been plugged in for a long time to ensure there is no remaining electric charge in it

4. Cut the cord off of it and dispose of the cord before disassembling electronic device

5. Avoid using CPUs or any electronics containing mercury.