(StatePoint) It may be too soon to start thinking about sending your baby off to kindergarten, but kids are never too young to develop a love of learning. The way you play with them during the early years can enrich their development substantially, say early childhood experts.
“Brain development is never more rapid than in the first few years, so these formative experiences during infancy and preschool are extremely important,” says Dr. Lise Eliot, an early childhood development expert and member of the Expert Panel at VTech, a leader in age-appropriate and developmental stage-based electronic learning products for children.
Certain games and toys can truly engage children, giving them a head start in learning. Whether your child is an infant or preschooler, there are many ways to encourage growth and development through playtime.
Children use words to express themselves, but also to learn about the people and world around them. Reading helps build their vocabulary, so read to your children daily until they can on their own.
Also, consider toys like the Lil’ Speller Phonics Station, which features fun sounds, melodies and animations that reinforce vocabulary and encourages interactive learning. With help from the toy’s Spelling Bee feature, kids can learn to spell more than 200 common three-letter words.
Math can be fun, especially if the foundation is set early. Help kids learn to count while identifying objects. For example, “how many doggies are in the park today?”
New toys, such as the Chomp & Count Dino from VTech, can also help kids get excited about math. Play in food or counting mode and the dino responds with sounds and phrases, introducing colors, numbers and shapes. Kids can answer the dino’s questions by feeding a specific food or number of pieces to show what they’ve learned.
Music can stimulate a baby even before they’re born, so be sure to continue the exposure to help form a well-rounded education. Baby and toddler music lessons can improve verbal skills, motor skills and increase confidence.
For an at-home alternative, consider the Grow-Along Music Center, which lets children pretend to be musicians. As they sing into the microphone, five colorful lights correspond to children’s voices, or they can play with wacky voice-changing and amplifying effects. Rock out with three instrument buttons that play guitar, drum and saxophone sounds.
Physical activity is a key building block to coordination and motor skills, and hones brain pathways for smooth, purposeful movement. If little ones are too young to play catch, simply sit on the floor facing each other and roll a ball back and forth. For infants, soft building blocks and other toys can encourage motor development.
You can also encourage movement with toys like the Sit-to-Stand Smart Cruiser, which transforms from a floor play toy with detachable steering wheel activity panel to a ride-on toy. It features driving, learning and music modes that introduce animals, opposites and first words.
More early learning tips are available at www.vtechkids.com.
It’s never too early to instill a love of learning in children. The sooner you get started, the more you can help enrich their development.