Play is a Child's Work: Choosing the Best Toys

August 19, 2016

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But, for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” -Fred Rogers

Play is an essential part of early learning and as children play, they are developing important cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills they will use as they grow into successful adults. Children are allowed to explore their interest and passions, which can build on goals and provide direction for the future.  It involves higher-order thinking skills such as problem solving, while also learning how to process and display emotions, ideas, and vocabulary as they interact with others. Fine and gross motor skills can also be strengthened depending on the type of play, as well as materials used.


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Toys are important tools to their work. Choosing toys that match a child’s development and interest are important, while also providing opportunities for a child to build on skills and expand their creativity. Christmas and birthdays are great opportunities to add “just right” toys to your child’s collection. So where do you start? Use this checklist for future birthday and Christmas presents!

View this free checklist developed by occupational therapy practitioners to assist you in selecting toys that can help your child learn and develop, all while having fun!

Some non conventional items that foster play and creativity are:

  • muffin tins with random things to sort such as buttons, cotton balls, marbles, coins, etc.
  • Pipe cleaners
  • package of cups for stacking and building
  • Loose game items, construction paper, index cards and markers for creating their own game!
  • small cookie sheet with magnets or old business card magnets cut into 5-8 pieces to make homemade puzzles!

Watch this video, by Cari Ebert, to learn how toddlers learn best! Powerful learning happens when children use their environment to make sense of the world around them.


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