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Dr. Toy's Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Select and Use the Best Toys & Games


Children love toys. From the colorful mobile overhead that attracts a baby's attention, to the tower of LEGOs built by your little architect; well-designed toys stimulate your child's mind.

Young ones absorb messages from toys through all stages of their growth. The kinds of toys selected and how your youngster plays with them will influence how well she meets her learning potential. Choosing the right toys for her play is not easy. It can be a real challenge to find the right product, at the right time, for the right price.

And once you've done the above, there’s the added challenge of getting the maximum value from the toy.

We’ve all heard about IQ (Intelligence Quotient). It is a classic predictor of your child's mental ability. I believe that your child's PQ, his Play Quotient is an equally vital factor which affects how well your young one will attain the best of his physical, creative, and intellectual potentials.

Play is your child's work. Through play children practice the basic skills needed in the classroom -- and in life. Guided play in the right environment will help your child gain the tools she needs to sharpen her thinking, and heighten her sensitivity.

To assist your child in succeeding with skill-building, we will look at the different ways your child uses toys, and you'll become informed about finding the right toys, and skilled at helping your child expand his or her PQ.

How Toys Work

Research conducted by child-development specialists points out that the first five years in the life of the child are of the greatest consequence.

Many studies confirm the essential aspects of early mental, social and neurological development. Genetic factors are linked to learning and memory. Researchers have found that children who do not play and are rarely touched have brains that are 20 to 30 percent smaller than normal for their age. Researchers have found that toys stimulate percent more brain synapses per neuron.

These early years are intensely formative: a period when children gain knowledge about themselves and about their environment, develop basic motor skills, discover many of their abilities, and gain the self-image and security that lasts a lifetime...

When a parent is involved with a baby -- smiling at her, creating silly and different sounds, making the baby laugh -- the parent becomes the baby's first "Big Toy." Fathers who enjoy close contact with their infants soon are distinguished from the mother by the different ways they play. The baby quickly learns to respond to different persons' sounds and touches. Through such interchanges, the infant becomes conscious of individual people. Also, she becomes aware of the environment around her.

The secondary motor stage of child development occurs during these first five years. It is the time when the most rapid physical, emotional, and mental growth takes place. And at each stage of this development, a child needs different kinds of stimulation, enhanced by different kinds of toys and different play strategies.

Play Principles

Play is a natural phenomenon. Before you examine the toys to be used by your young one, it helps if you understand the principles of play. Of particular importance is understanding that play enriches both sides of the brain -- right and left hemispheres. Thus, the underlying principle of play, smart play, is that the child will gather essential experiences necessary for her fullest mental development...

As infants grow they play with innumerable things around them: their hands, their toes, sunbeams coming in through the window. At the same time they discover sounds; they babble and talk to themselves. They become conscious of the separate parts of their bodies; they make distinctions in color, light, and sound.

How children interact with people and elements in their environment is revealing. We should stand back and observe them. As we watch them play, we come to know their play process, the ways they get frustrated, their tolerance levels, and their curiosity and creative responses.
We want to be sure our children play with others of different ages and abilities so our own child can experience a full range of social interaction: patience, empathy, compassion, support, and honesty. The way he plays affects how he feels about himself.

A child plays alone, with other children, and with adults, and each style teaches him something different. Children help each other achieve increased degrees of sophistication. For example, children learn from other children by talking with and watching one another, by trying new scenarios, and exchanging information, even fantasies.

In the earliest stages, little ones play merely in proximity to others without being involved with them. They play alone and find satisfying activities for themselves. As they grow, they learn to share toys, give them away, and fight over them...

Power of Play

Because of the power of play, you must understand your child's need to explore, to meet and play with other children, and you must try not to interfere with your little one's activity. Instead, serve as your child's "Play Guide" -- observe, enhance, and augment her experiences.

When playtime is ending, for example, it is important to give the child enough advance notice so she can have time to bring the activity to a satisfying close. If we respect our children's playtime, the child is almost always more cooperative when they must change gears to eat, nap, or go elsewhere.

In play, children gain mastery over themselves and learn their own power in relationships with others. They grasp social values such as biases and responsibilities. They communicate better. They absorb concepts like making judgments. Each child expresses a unique style of play and the ways he plays when he is young reflect how he will deal with others during later life.

Advantages of Play

Play experiences help the child to:

**Gain an understanding of the world.
**Act productively with other children and adults.
**Get and hold the attention of others in a suitable way.
**Enhance the ability to concentrate, an essential skill before he begins school.
**Expand his natural curiosity, whet his ability to solve problems, and foster spontaneity. These are each central components of mastering the learning process.

Sample Comments

Helps parents choose the right toy for the right child at the right time. What’s more, she inspires readers to remember play time happens outside of a child’s toy box: I highly recommend this book.

--Sharon DiMinico, CEO, Learning Express

Smart Play+Smart Parents = Smart Kids. Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. writes with rare power of original analysis.
--Richard C. Levy, Toy Inventor/Author

As a pediatrician, mother of two sets of twins, and toy inventor, I have tremendous respect for the comprehensive, interesting, fact-filled and sensible advice and learning Dr. Toy's book provides. This is a tremendous resource for parents, professionals working with children and buyers of products for kids. Play is so important in today's busy world, and Dr. Toy's approach to understanding play is unique and important. Fabulous book!
--Dr. Jennifer Canter, Inventor of the U-Play Mat! Play This Way Every Day www.playthisway.com