Have you ever heard the phrase “play based learning”? Basically your child actually learns a great deal just through playing! Play is a very important part of childhood development. When a child plays, their brain is actually developing and their language and communication skills are maturing. In the first few years, the most significant brain development is happening. If a child is under stimulated (through lack of play and parental engagement), there can be long term negative effects to the child’s learning and physical / mental well being. 

Roughly 80% of brain development is completed by the age of three and 90% by age five! That is why it is important to encourage learning through play by not only playing with and engaging with your child, but by also using learning toys as tools for development and growth.

When I changed my approach towards buying toys, and started to really be mindful in which toys I was choosing, I seen a huge leap in my daughters development. I started only purchasing toys that encouraged learning, that were more open ended and could be played with in a variety of ways, and that would grow with her. 

So I put together a list of some great learning toys that we either have and love or that are on our ever growing wish list! 

1. COLOR SORTING AND MATCHING

Toddlers start to differentiate between colors around 18 months of age and introducing color sorting activities is a great way to assist in teaching colors. By helping your toddler match the colors and verbalizing each color in the process, you are using fun and play to teach, which will greatly influence your child’s learning.  

2. FINE MOTOR DEVELOPMENT

Fine motor skills involve the use of the small muscles that control the hand, fingers, and thumb. Fine motor skills will help a child perform important tasks like feeding themselves, grasping their toys, buttoning and zipping their clothes, coloring, drawing, and more. When a child develops the ability to complete these small every day tasks, it helps to build up their self esteem and confidence as well. 

It’s important to start working with children on building their fine motor skills early on. Fine motor skills will develop and improve as they move through childhood. It just takes the right kind of practice and tools! Play is a great way to make fine motor skill development fun, and these toys can assist with that!

3. GROSS MOTOR DEVELOPMENT

Gross Motor development involves the larger, stronger muscle groups of the body. In early childhood, it is the development of these muscles that enable a baby to hold his/her head up, sit, crawl and eventually walk, run and skip. These great toys can help your child practice their gross motor skills. 

4. SENSORY PLAY

Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks. Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction. These toys and tools will assist in some great sensory play and support the growth and development of your child!

5. OTHER GREAT LEARNING TOYS

There are so many fantastic toys out there that encourage language development, cognitive development, problem solving, memory, matching, social skills, pre-writing skills, early math skills and more. I have included some toys that we love or are on our wish list below. 

The Ultimate List of Toddler Toys That Promote Learning & Development