A child’s brain develops rapidly during the early years of life, especially the first two years. During this time, the appropriate stimulation is important to ensure that a child’s developmental potential is maximised.

Toys aren’t just playthings

“When given a toy, you will most probably see your child happy and bright-eyed. Toys are more than just playthings. They are an important part in the stimulation of your child’s physical, social, language, mental and emotional development,” said Ms Teh Wan Ying, Senior Physiotherapist from the Department of Physiotherapy at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

“Toys should be age-appropriate and safe. They do not need to be fanciful or expensive. A simple and yet stimulating toy, will enable a child to explore it freely using the senses such as sight, touch and hearing. This will also allow a child to use his/her imagination and encourage creativity,” she added.

Related article: When Toys Pose a Danger to Children

Why smartphones, tablets and TV make bad toys

Children (from an increasingly young age) are being exposed to tech devices such as television, smartphones and tablets. The time spent on such devices is called “screen-time”, and it is crucial to set screen time limits for children.

“Research has shown that inappropriate screen times pose many possible dangers and risks towards a child’s heath and development, including cognitive, language and social/emotional delays, obesity and sleep problems,” advised Dr Selina Ho, Senior Consultant from the Department of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine at SGH.

“Screen time can also significantly affect a child’s attention span. Children who had high screen time were found to have difficulties focusing during learning, reading and even listening to instructions and conversations.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time, other than video-chatting, for children under 18 months. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and use them together with their children. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided,” Dr Ho added.

Remember: the emphasis for child development in these important early years is on interaction with your infant through developmentally appropriate play and activities.​

Related article: What to Note When Choosing Toys for Your Child

How the right toys promote child development

*The ‘expected milestones’ is just a guide. Some children take a shorter or longer period to achieve the above milestones.

Tips to maintain your child’s attention

  1. Take out only a few toys at a time 
  2. Let your child play with a different toy every few days (by rotating the toys) to give it a fresh and new feel
  3. Allow your child to fully explore one toy before introducing another
  4. Use age-appropriate toys matched to their milestones

Ref: L20

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