Try these toys to encourage creative thinking in young children, which can benefit their development. This is the first of a two-part series.
As an infant, we introduced our son to soft cloth blocks with a foam center. He could stack them, squish them or fall on them.
Slightly older children can play with alphabet blocks, such as those made by Uncle Goose. When our boy was a toddler, we got him nesting blocks decorated with animal pictures. He stacked them, placed them inside each other, and practiced animal sounds.
The youngest builders may enjoy Battat Bristle Blocks, which don’t need to be lined up perfectly in order to connect, which makes them perfect for younger children. (However, the creations do fall apart easily.)
Children ages 2-5 can take their building to the next level with LEGO DUPLO blocks. Our master builder is constantly surprising us with new inventions. He loves the flexibility and sturdiness of DUPLO toys, which are bigger than standard LEGOs, making them easier to manipulate.
The classic children’s building toy, Lincoln Logs, can also be a terrific outlet for creative energy. Our son discovered them at our local YMCA, where I picked him up from the childcare center and found him stacking logs with the older kids!
Toys That Go
Both boys and girls love anything with wheels. Our earliest cars for our son came with the aforementioned cloth block set, and were foam, covered with cloth, with permanently affixed plastic wheels. They were safe for rolling, squishing and even mouthing.
We next found a large soft rubber Playskool fire truck, easy for little hands to maneuver and safe to fall on while he was learning to walk. We found that Fisher-Price makes a terrific line of plastic vehicles for little ones, complete with adorable figures.
Our son got hooked on the Thomas and Friends characters when a friend gave us a Thomas engine large enough for his not-quite-two-year-old hands to hold. Thanks to that toy (and some starter videos the friend also gave us), he soon learned all the characters. Nowadays him enjoys making elaborate wooden train track setups. Since Thomas toys have faces, they naturally lend themselves to playing out stories. Melissa and Doug also makes great wooden trains and tracks which can mix and match with Thomas sets.
These days, at nearly 4, our son has developed an interest in small die-cast cars, like those made by Matchbox. He spends hours creating worlds for his cars and playing out little car dramas.