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Brain Building Play For Infants and Toddlers

Yes, there is a right way to play. And, yes, some toys are better for brain development than others.

Jane Healy author of "Your Child's Growing Mind" has set down some basic guidelines to help you get your child off to the right start. Remember that patience and engagement are the keys to a healthy child's mind:

First, make certain that your child is actively interested and involved in the activity at hand. This means stay away from television or video games and concentrate on a "hands-on" experience.
- Repeat activities often. Babies, of course, are just learning and have no real base of knowledge to build on.
- Ms. Healy recommends putting a selection of interesting toys just within baby's reach so he or she must stretch to get to them. The toys should be ones they can grasp and manipulate. They also should be safe and sturdy. Excellent toys for this activity are the Whoozit toys made by Manhattan Toys.

Second, give the child positive encouragement. Though babies cannot communicate with complex language, ideas and moods can be conveyed through many methods:
- After child-proofing the play area, let children explore their space to the limits of their abilities.
- Carpeting and pillows make play more comfortable and warm.
- Keep time in playpen and other closely restrained areas to a minimum.
- If possible, provide a window to the outside for natural light and so the child can observe the outside world.
- If you have a playroom, store toys on low shelves. Try to keep the toys organized, with a nice variety available at all times.
- Avoid jumbled boxes of mixed toys.
- Introduce toys one or two at a time.
- Make the surroundings bright and cheerful with posters, calendars and pictures.
- When playing with baby, try to concentrate on one sense at a time to help baby focus.
- It is important to link sensory experience with language. Use words to describe what is happening.
- Babies should interact with toys. Pushing buttons on an electronic toy does not teach children about concepts such as "cause and effect".

Finally, don't over-stimulate the child. When they become tired, let them sleep or enjoy downtime. It is during this downtime that learning is "consolidated".

WhoozitWhoozit is a great toy to keep babies and toddlers engaged and interested. It is designed specifically to stimulate children from birth through the age of three. On the back-side of the Whoozit is a high-contrast black and white target that fascinates new-borns. The front side reveals a silly face which young children are attracted to. The nose lifts up to reveal a small mirror. The baby can see himself as well as other reflections. The nose beeps and many of the hanging arms also make noises. The arms can be stuffed inside the Whoozit. This helps hand-eye coordination and also teaches concepts about the nature of our world (think out-of-sight/out-of-mind). This is a great gift for a newborn that will help them in the crucial stages of early development and learning.

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