Choosing Toys Takes Consideration
When selecting toys, the best choices are fun, age appropriate, promote learning and problem solving, encourage play at a higher level, novel, safe and affordable! Here are a few things to consider when deciding upon a toy. Of course, we all know that toys alone are not enough; play partners promote fun and enhance the development of skills.
Sound. Does the toy make noise? If so, does the sound have a positive or negative effect for the child? How long after activation does the sound continue? Can you control the length of this time?
Visual. Does the toy have features that attract the child? If the visual features are lights, how are they activated? How bright are they? Are they linked to sounds? Can they be disconnected from the sound? Is there a bright color contrast? Are there patterns that are interesting to the child? Do the visual features invite touch?
Touch. What does the toy feel like - soft, hard, smooth, rough, tickley, cuddly? Is there vibration? Does the touch promote or complicate grasp and release? Does the sensation encourage active exploration? If so, does it encourage exploration with the entire hand or with just isolated fingers?
Access and Activation
How is the toy activated? Does activation require minimal movement or more effort by the child? What movements are required? What body parts can activate the toy?
Are there multiple parts to the toy that need to or can be activated? If so, are these multiple parts interrelated such that all must be active to make the toy interesting?
Does the toy have handles or knobs that the child must use? If so, are they of an appropriate shape and size for this child? If not, can they be easily adapted?
Where must the toy be positioned for activation? Can the position be adapted to meet the needs of the child?
Size. Small toys may be inaccessible to children with unrefined hand skills or limited motor control. Large toys may be inappropriate to place on a lap tray, table or small bench?
Construction. How is the toy put together? Is it stapled or glued? What is it made of? These factors may influence the safety, weight or durability of the toy.
Stability. Is the toy stable by itself? Does it required one hand to stabilize it while the other hand manipulates it?
Versatility. Does the toy provide some variety in and of itself that may promote use of the toy in more advanced ways as the child develops skills?
Reprinted with permission from the What's Up , Volume 16, Number 3. What's Up is published by the Early Childhood Training Center in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Education. (Adapted from RERC, Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center on Technology Transfer document.)