Art supplies: Coloured paper, markers with glitter, crayons and watercolor paints are all wonderful ways to inspire children’s artistic growth and self-expression. Every child is a little Picasso.
Musical instruments: Whether it is a drum set, a horn, or a recorder, musical instruments are great fun. Discovering patterns and rhythms is a way to train children’s ears and prepare them for future musical success.
Books: Children’s books can be beautiful and inspirational. Books allow kids to solve the problems of others, travel to the jungle, and go through the looking glass. Being read to is one of the cheapest free pleasures around. When you read to children, talk to them about what you’re reading and follow their interests. Let them frequently interrupt to ask questions and make sure to cuddle them so that reading will be associated with warmth and companionship.
Dolls: A doll, of any description, sparks imagination, is a platform for play and is 90 per cent child and 10 per cent toy. Dolls have real staying power because they are so flexible. They also encourage social skills on many levels – for example, taking care of another person, or going on an adventure with a friend and her doll.
Board games: Research indicates that children who play games such as Snakes and Ladders, which require them to count, acquire the number skills necessary for school success. They can also learn to negotiate about rules, take turns playing and, depending on the game, to plan ahead and use strategy.
Torches: Given that children can barely keep their hands off the flashlights that we all keep for emergencies, capitalise on this interest by buying them their own torches with renewable batteries. They will love making creative shadows and hand animals.
Construction toys: Work from our laboratories suggests that playing with blocks helps young children to learn about geometric shapes, complicated spatial relationships such as “under” and “between”, and allows children to cooperate with others to build structures.
Play-Doh or clay. Moulding mushy substances is great for kids so that they can create objects and creatures from their imagination. Throw in a potato masher, or a garlic press, and your child will have a ball using it to make hair to put on their human creations!
Puzzles. Research tells us that playing with puzzles builds spatial knowledge and spatial vocabulary such as “in” and “out” and “above” and “below”. They are also wonderful opportunities for social interaction and cooperation with friends and family members.
Costumes, including old clothes: Dramatic play is directly linked to becoming a reader because children tell stories when they play dressing up. With costumes, old hats, and funny beards and wigs, kids can fashion themselves into new characters in dramatic play as they improvise on the spot.