The below stages are purely a guide to illustrate the important phases of an infant’s development. No individual is the same and thus it speaks for itself that there would be differences in play and developmental stages of any child.
0-3 months – blurred vision, observation plays a dominant role
3 months-12 months – greatest growth in sensorimotor, visual cortex and frontal lobes (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell).
Bright coloured noisemaking infant toys are great! Later progressing from observing mobiles and mirror toys to grasping and holding toys that can be manipulated with pleasing effects. Activity quilts with different textures, attachments that squeak or rattles, jingles. Soft balls that are dropped and retrieved assist with dexterity and cause-and-effect concept.
As babies become mobile and start sitting up and crawl, other activities become important. Experiment with nesting cups, stacking rings, activity boxes, large blocks and shape sorters later (fine motor skills and relationship skills). Basic cloth/board books with interesting, familiar pictures/objects provides for object-recognition and basic language skill.
Bath toys are important for water play activities such as filling, emptying and splashing. As soon as babies are on their feet they are ready for push-pull toys.
During this stage the toddler’s brain is twice as active as the adult brain. The toddlers undergo rapid development in social-emotional response and language together with continued motor co-ordination development.
Toddlers are very active with running, jumping, climbing and riding. Ride-on-toys are great with low tricycles, foot-to-floor vehicles etc. Large balls, outdoor sandbox and low climbing toys are great for gross motor skills development.
Stimulate toddlers’ curiosity with take-apart toys, pop-up toys and simple puzzles. These activities improve hand-eye coordination, understanding spatial orientation and cause and effect. A simple set of large blocks and modelling clay provides for hours of tactile-pleasing, creative play.
Musical instruments are important with tambourines, xylophones, drums and other simple musical instruments helping in toddlers’ development.
During this period the brain physically develops to 90% of its adult weight. Accelerated speed of processing, improved memory and improvement in problem solving occurs during this stage of development. Imagination and interaction play are activities that are important during this developmental stage.
Play-play toys, copying every day activities, relate to scenarios that kids like to construct. Language and social skills practiced through these make-believe games add to its development and advancement.
Early board games introduce concepts of sharing and taking turns, while letter and word recognition toys and games reinforce language learning. Number recognition toys and games assists with mathematics learning.
Art materials add to creative development while physical needs are stimulated through larger tricycles, skipping ropes, push bicycles and proper bicycles with fairy wheels.
School going children seek to learn about new things and experiences. Enjoyable board games that require strategy and skill, classic toys like marbles and kites are favourites. Fashion and career dolls and action figures link in with the grown-up worlds.
New experience through Science kits, crafts and magic kits widens their exposure. Physical abilities develop allowing these children to enjoy junior versions of adult sporting equipment. This is the age when children become huge fans of computer games, but enjoy entertaining their friends with card games, board games and sports activities.
Children at this age start to acquire adult-like interests, hobbies and abilities. These children enjoy outdoor sports and enjoy competing with their friends. Girls still enjoy doing crafts and writing diaries, while boys engage with their friends in activities that require mastery and competence.