A healthy imagination is a child’s best toy | PostIndependent.com

A healthy imagination is a child’s best toy

Sandy Swanson
Executive Director Family Visitor Programs

Many parents ask me how to choose a “great toy” for their child. The toys that are best for young children are very simple and lead to lots of experimentation, and use of imagination.

My favorites include balls, books, blocks, rattles, and a toy that a child can push or pull. Toys can also be made of simple items found in most households. For example, objects that have different textures, smells and sounds are great for building the senses, and a book made from family pictures or magazine cut outs is great for quiet time.

Children are busy when they’re playing and there’s a lot of learning happening. They are figuring out what sinks and floats; how to balance blocks to build and knock down towers; turning those same blocks into cars or anything their imagination desires.

Battery operated toys are the worst — for two reasons. They eliminate experimentation: A child needs to be able to incorporate their own sounds and movements into their play. Batteries present a health risk to young children. Batteries swallowed by young children have resulted in major surgery and in some cases death.

The very best toy that you can give a child is you. A caring adult who gets down on the child’s level, who watches what the child is trying to do, and then follows the child’s lead is invaluable. Is it time for action like rolling a ball? Or is it time for quiet play, like making shadows move or turn into animals? Is it time to play a game that builds thinking skills like you hiding an object and them finding it? Or is it time for an activity that builds the senses, like a massage or smelling the flowers? Or how about an activity that builds language skills, like singing a song or reading a book?

One of my favorite things to do with my almost 4-year-old grandson is to sit on the floor with him and let him direct the play. We both have a wonderful time, and in the proce ss we both learn a lot about each other

When children play with you, they are figuring out that they are loved, important and fun to be around. These are the skills that are crucial for them to continue building loving and supportive relationships for the rest of their lives.

If you would like more information, call Sandy Swanson at 945-1234, extension 23 or by email sswanson@familyvisitor.org. To find out about the services the agency provides visit http://www.familyvisitor.org

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