Do Educational Toys Promote Early Childhood Development (Physical Development – Part I)

From the time a child is born, parents enthusiastically wait for the day that they witness the “Developmental Milestones” of their child. The joy that parents experience the first time that their child rolls over, crawls and then begins to walk will most likely be shared with everyone they know. These milestones are all signs of a child’s physical development as well as the maturation of their brain.  

The physical development of children is divided into two main areas, Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills. Motor skills are actions that involve the deliberate and controlled movements of muscles in the body. Gross motor skills are the large body movements that involve legs, arms and the entire body, these activities include crawling, walking, running, jumping, climbing, etc. Fine motor skills involve more precise and smaller movements that involve hands, fingers, wrist, feet, toes and eyes, these activities include eye-hand coordination, grasping objects, stacking objects, writing, etc.

Keeping in mind that the following is not meant to be all inclusive, below is an overview of some of the physical development milestones that parents can begin to notice in their child from infancy to six years of age…

  • Newborn: Reflex motions such as sucking, limited hands, arms and leg movement
  • 3 – 12 Months: Lifts head while lying on stomach, rolls over, grasps rattle, sits without support, rocks on hands and knees, pick up small objects, move objects from one hand to another, sits up with out help, crawls and can walk holding on to someone or something
  • 12 Months – 2 Years of Age: Walks and runs, climbs stairs, throws, feeds self usually with hands, builds with blocks, imitates adults, begins using utensils to feed self, scribbles
  • 2 – 3 Years of Age: Jumps in place, hops, balances on one foot, helps in getting dressed, uses spoon and fork properly, uses toilet, draws stick people, rides tri-cycle, begins using scissors
  • 3 – 4 Years of Age: Runs, skips, hops on one foot, throws and catches various size balls, dress self, shows dominance in hand usage
  • 4 – 5 Years of Age: Builds with smaller objects, colors within the lines, rides a two wheel bike cycle with training wheels, bounces, catches and throws balls with more accuracy
  •  5 – 6 Years of Age: Ties shoelaces, cuts with a knife, jumps rope

A CBS News Report entitled “Baby Toys Have Lasting Effects” reveals that a Stanford University School of Medicine researchers studies indicate, “the brain regions that help children sense and interpret the world are dramatically affected by early childhood experiences, and educational toys that stimulate young minds and encourage them to explore the world in a new way may help build their brain for future tasks”.

Although both areas of motor skill development is a continuous progression over time, educational toys can play a major role in the development of fine motor skills for children from infancy to 6 years of age. The various shapes, colors and design configurations stimulate and challenge eye-hand coordination, visual tracking, shape and color recognition, depth perception as well as language development, all while having fun. But isn’t that a parents desire for their child in a seemingly stressful complex world? To learn and grow while having fun which will prepare their child to be a successful, productive adult?