With Christmas fast approaching, if youâ€™re thinking of a gift for a baby or child, toys are the obvious choice. However, working your way through the maze of toy products can be very confusing. Many on the market are loud, with flashing lights and bright plastic parts. They look like great fun from an adults point of view and after all, it is adults who will be buying them! But think carefully. Babies and children love toys that stimulate their senses, but donâ€™t assault them.
At Born we firmly believe that toys are a gateway to a childâ€™s imagination and should allow them to create and explore a new world, one that isnâ€™t always obvious to the parent. So a dumper truck becomes the cornerstone in a building site game where houses, tower blocks, schools and hospitals are created from wooden play bricks. A wooden rainbow become a see-saw and a hilly road for a car. A faceless cloth doll becomes a best friend for life.
If you are not sure about which toy to buy, check out the details on our website or contact one of our stores â€“ we will be more than happy to offer help and advice.Â If you are buying the toy as a gift, we can enclose a gift card and wrap the gift free of charge, before posting it on its way! And if you already have some perfect toys in mind, you can send link suggestions to family and friends, to be delivered or collected from the store.
What is Learning through Play?
For most children, play is natural and spontaneous. It is a major part of their development as it is through play that that children explore and discover their immediate world. It is here they learn new skills, experience emotions and practise new ideas. They take risks, develop creativity and imagination and solve problems on their own or with others. The toys you choose need support their learning and should inspire play, not dominate it.
A great example of this is a Steiner doll which follows the concept thatÂ expressionless toys allow the child to project their own emotions onto the toy,Â choosing how they feel that day and leading to more flexible and creative play.
So which toy is right for my child’s developmental stage?
Ultimately, your child will choose the toys they want by selecting which they play with and which they ignore! So how do you get that joyful face as they open their presents on Christmas morning and avoid that pile of discarded mistakes at the bottom of the toy box?
Be led by your child. Choose toys that support their current developmental stage and that will inspire and stimulate without being overly challenging. It is always tempting to buy them something that will help them â€˜advance to the next stageâ€™ â€“ try to resist â€“ your child will do that when they are naturally ready and will let you know about it. Equally, age appropriate suggestions are useful, especially for safety, but if your child isnâ€™t there yet, donâ€™t buy it. Use your child as your main guide.
Finally, keep some toys that you think they have moved on from. Children sometimes need the comfort and reassurance or to consolidate their development. And itâ€™s always nice to revisit old friends!
Here are some age appropriate toy ideas:
For a newborn
Your newborn will find endless pleasure in just gazing at you, hearing and feeling your presence. They are exploring the world with their senses, but do not yet have control over their motor skills. This is a great time for a cot mobile, with bright colours which they can watch but not reach. Also consider cloth comforters â€“ these can be really effective if you sleep with it before your little one is born â€“ it will have your smell and help give them a sense of security and well-being.
My baby can reach and grab
At this stage, babies love textured toys that they can put in their mouths. This is also the time to introduce soft toys and maybe spark the beginnings of a beautiful friendship between a teddy and your child. Soft rattles are great too â€“ they encourage movement, your baby can make an impact and it wonâ€™t hurt if their aim is slightly off!
It is important for your baby to spend time on their tummy â€“ it helps strengthen neck and upper back muscles and gives them a different view of their world. Baby gyms and cloth mats are perfect for encouraging tummy time, giving them lots to reach for and explore.
My baby is sitting up:
Welcome to a whole new phase! When babies sit up, they are also mastering hand-eye co-ordination and gross motor skills and they are keen to get practicing! Toys with cause and effect are perfect at this stage, so give them push and pull toys, nesting and stacking toys, squeaky toys, shape sorters, activity cubes and simple instruments that they can bang and bash. Activity toys and repetition are key for your little one at this stage.
My baby is teething:
Babies love to put everything in their mouths and chew when they are cutting teeth. It can be a hard time for babies and parents, but choose toys that can soothe or distract as well as being gnawed.
My baby can crawl:
Whether you have a crawler, bottom shuffler, roller or something completely unique, when your child is on the move, they love toys that move too. Push-along toys are great for this stage as they can move their truck or elephant on wheels along with them as they crawl around the room. Consider soft balls to chase after, or blocks to collect and stack.
My child is walking:
Toddlers love to be up and about and want to show what their bodies can do! Pull-along toys are ideal at this stage as your child will get rewarded with little quacks, bouncing bodies or flapping wings as the toy gets pulled along! When they are really steady on their feet, they might like a ride-on toy which will encourage them to explore and get them around the house at even faster speed!
My child is discovering their world:
When your child is eager to explore, choose toys that will enable discovery, but not dictate it. Think of props to inspire role play, such as tea sets or pirate ships. Consider toys that encourage problem solving, such as stacking toys, puzzles or sorting toys. Toys that can be played with outside or in the bath, so that your child can experiment with soil, mud and water. And donâ€™t forget spontaneous toys â€“ nothing beats a good old cardboard box!
A word about safety
Babies and children are hardwired to experiment, explore and at certain stages, put everything in their mouths. Here is where the age appropriate guides are important â€“ heed the labels, thereâ€™s often a reason why the toy is ok for over 3 years but not for younger ones.
Your other tool is common sense. Any item small enough to fit through the tube of a toilet roll is a choking hazard. Keep older siblings toys away from younger children, double check the safety advice of any toys given by well-meaning friends and watch out for heirlooms â€“ beautifully nostalgic but probably not compliant with todayâ€™s safety standards.
Finally â€“ balloons. According to National SAFE KIDS Campaign, one-third of child choking deaths in the UK result from latex balloons and health authorities recommend that young children are kept away from them. If you want balloons, use mylar ones and always supervise your little ones when they are playing with them.
Why buy toys from Born?
At Born, we believe passionately that the right toy can take children into a world of imagination, giving them the space to explore, experiment and experience.
But itâ€™s not just the end user, the child, that we think about when sourcing toys. What they are made from and how they are made is equally important. So no toys for children made by children. No toys made from plastics that will never decompose but will be a legacy in landfill sites for generations to come. No toys made from depleting resources or toys that release toxins during manufacture or contain chemicals that could harm your child or the planet. So you can rest assured that your gift will be safe, guilt free and most importantly, give your child hours of fun and the freedom to play.