Puzzles promote spatial awareness and logical thinking.

Toys That Support Cognitive Development

by Carly Seifert

Your child learns about the world, practices new skills and engages in activities that promote cognitive development through play. Certain toys encourage behaviors that strengthen cognitive development. By providing your child with age and developmentally appropriate toys, you are providing him with opportunities to practice problem solving, symbolic thinking, imitation and reasoning skills.

1. Infants

During the first year of your infant's life, provide him with toys that encourage sensory exploration and the development of motor skills. Nursery mobiles stimulate your child's vision and encourage his hand-eye coordination as he bats at dangling items. Soft mirrors can help your baby develop self-awareness, and stacking rings promote the development of fine motor skills as your baby practices fitting the rings onto the cone. Push-pull toys help your baby learn to balance and develop his gross motor skills as he learns to walk.

2. Toddlers

Toys that are bright, colorful and easy to handle will appeal to your toddler. Toys that teach awareness of shapes, sizes and colors -- such as shape sorters and peg boards -- help your toddler learn basic concepts and encourage his problem-solving abilities. Toys that encourage pretend play -- such as toy kitchens, doctor's kits, cash registers and costumes -- encourage creative thinking and emotional development. Read often to your little one to help expand his vocabulary and promote early literacy and reading comprehension.

3. Preschoolers

Your preschooler's play is becoming more sophisticated, elaborate and physical. As his fine motor skills develop, provide him with plenty of opportunities to create art by supplying him with crayons, markers, safety scissors and coloring books. Open-ended toys such as blocks and construction sets encourage symbolic thinking. Jigsaw puzzles promote dexterity as he handles the pieces and help him to understand spatial relationships and think logically as he figures out where the pieces fit.

4. School-Aged Kids

Your elementary school child has begun to develop interests. Provide your child with opportunities to grow and develop them -- take him to the library often if he loves to read or enroll him in piano lessons if he wishes to pursue a musical instrument. Play involved board games and card games that teach strategic thinking and fair play. Toys that promote exploration and the development of science skills -- such as binoculars or chemistry sets -- are helpful in improving problem-solving abilities and science and math skills.

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