Experts enumerate physical, motor, cognitive and emotional growth as key areas in child development. Of these four, most people would actively seek out ways to help their growing baby in achieving the first three. Parents’ primary concerns would usually include finding the right balance of nutrients and exercise to strengthen their babies’ bodies and to help them navigate their way through the world of big things around them. In a typical toy store, there would be the usual slew of colorful blocks and puzzles for a toddler, toys which stimulate mental growth. A father would aspire for his son to be a sports star; a mother would love the idea of her child becoming a doctor someday.
While not consciously overlooked, the last key area is one which is the most easily taken for granted. Emotional growth is, after all, something that a child can not learn from just his toys. Though a child could learn to “love” his toys, a stuffed animal could not, in reality, hug him back; a doll can not teach him to be considerate of other people’s feelings. Toys are tools which could help, but the actual lesson would come from the parents.
It is a common enough scenario to have a mother keep herself in the background while her child is preoccupied with playing, while she herself is busy with other activities. However, she would not only be missing out on developing a loving bond between herself and her child, but she would also deprive him of the chance to become better adjusted socially. Parents are, after all, the first “friends” a child could have. While genetics play an important role in determining a child’s personality, actual interaction would allow him to learn faster and better.
The first few years of a child’s life is a crucial period in which the mind is best prepared to learn fundamental skills. This is also the time when a child develops emotional bonds to the people around him. These two in conjunction sets the perfect stage for learning emotional and social skills. Parents could give their toddler toys such as dolls and stuffed animals, but the most vital thing would be to consistently set loving and responsible examples. Play-acting would be a stimulating and creative activity, with characters, dialogue and situations mirroring the actual world.
Something as simple as a pair of sock puppets could demonstrate to your child such abstract ideas as empathy and respect. Even in playing with toys such as blocks and puzzles, a child would become more confident with himself if given praise for hard work and accomplishment. A story from a book becomes much more interesting to a child when it is being read in his father’s loving voice.
It is a fact that a child who is loved is a child who is happy. It has also been said that the home is the schoolhouse from which a child may learn his first, if not the most important lessons he would need in his life. And what lesson is more important than that of love and respect for fellow human beings? Parents, love your child not just by giving your toddler toys, but by playing with him.