Note that object:setSequence() must be called before the sequence can be played. Play can also be called after object:pause().
This article is intended to serve as a handy reference guide and starting point for understanding and distinguishing children`s basic abilities and preferences as they grow. These abilities and preferences play an important role in attracting and motivating children to interact with toys.
Developing physically, for example, changes the ways in which children are able to coordinate their gross-motor skills. Increased mobility opens up new ways to use toys. A higher level of fine-motor skill permits greater manipulation of objects. Ultimately, such knowledge helps to identify and distinguish the characteristics of toys that are appealing to children at a given age.
Although information of this sort is noted throughout the guidelines in relation to a specific subcategory of toys, this section summarizes typical play behaviors regardless of the toy used, and identifies appropriate and appealing toy characteristics that are generally consistent among all subcategories of toys. With this information, the reader will be better able to make an age determination for a given toy, even if that toy is not specifically addressed within the guidelines.
Object play is limited during this period since learning occurs mostly through the reflexive actions of the child, such as spontaneous kicking or arm movements. Initially, they explore with their eyes and ears only. Newborns can focus best at about eight inches from their faces, but this increases over time and they may be able to see objects several feet away by the end of this period. Play objects should fit within their visual field at these distances. They are attracted to bright and vibrant colors, especially yellows and reds, and to objects with high-contrast patterns like black and white spirals. These children prefer the human face to all other patterns, and will watch faces intently. They will turn their heads in the direction of a sound, and are more attracted to objects that emit a gentle, soothing sound and that move slowly than to those that remain still or are too loud, too sudden, or otherwise extreme. Much of these infants` play involves watching and exploring their own body. They have a reflexive grasp, which only allows them to explore objects briefly, and at 3 months they begin to swipe or reach towards a dangling object to grasp it. Any object grasped is likely to be mouthed and to be handled with jerky, unpredictable motions. Therefore, soft, lightweight, washable, easy-to-grip objects with rounded corners are best. They start to learn and enjoy toys for which simple actions produce a clear, direct effect; for example, toys that light up, move, or create sound as a result of simple kicking or shaking.
Children now actively engage with their environments in systematic ways. Distance vision is more mature, and these children can track moving objects with smooth, efficient eye movements.
Bright colors, high contrasts, and complex patterns continue to be appealing. These children learn to differentiate among objects, as evidenced by their ability to group visual stimuli into categories. By 5 months of age, children can roll onto their backs and push up onto their hands and knees, so mobiles and suspended gyms are no longer appropriate at this age. They have mastered the ability to grasp and manipulate a dangling object by 6 months, and begin to engage in more active play by reaching, grasping, tugging, pushing, patting, shaking, and squeezing objects. At 6 to 7 months, children are sitting independently, which provides them with greater visual capacities for grasping objects or bringing objects to midline for exploration. They can manipulate objects more readily, though their fine-motor coordination is still rudimentary.
Objects are grasped using a claw-like grip or raking motion rather than a pincer grasp (i.e., using the thumb and index finger). They can transfer an object from hand to hand, and begin to use both hands independently; for example, one hand may hold an object while the other hand manipulates it. These children continue to mouth objects, so suitable toys are washable.
Near the end of this period, infants develop the ability to recognize oft-repeated words, and some are beginning to crawl and stand with support. At this time, they are also beginning to understand object permanence - that an object that is hidden or partially hidden did not actually disappear, but still exists somewhere. Soft, lightweight, rounded, and textured toys that make gentle sounds are appropriate. Hand-held objects, like simple musical toys, should be sized so these children can easily grasp and manipulate them. Books and images with bright pictures and high-contrast images are appealing, as are mirrors.
Much of the play during this period focuses on developing gross-motor skills as these children exhibit more outwardly oriented movements and become increasingly mobile. They can crawl forward and backward, pull themselves into a standing position, walk with support (for example, along furniture), stand momentarily without support, and complete a couple of unassisted steps.
They also begin to climb. These children explore objects in many different ways such as through grasping, shaking, squeezing, throwing, dropping, passing from hand to hand, and banging.
Although they can hold two objects and bang them together, they cannot coordinate the movements of both to use them together. They begin to develop a pincer grasp, which is used to pick up small objects between the thumb and fingers. Patterns of exploratory play begin that suggest older infants can make inferences about novel objects. For example, these children may infer what functions may operate beneath the surface of an object. They explore objects from every angle, and this often involves mouthing. Therefore, suitable toys are washable.
Many of these infants begin to use items in typical relational patterns; for example, dumping items out of a container, putting them back in, and then repeating the process. They repeat pleasurable actions often, and start to show an interest in marking on paper. Basic memory skills are developing and object permanence becomes more entrenched. When a toy is hidden or not within view, these children know the toy still exists and did not simply disappear. Infants of this age can understand simple words related to their immediate context, and need repetition and reinforcement of the words they hear. At the end of this period, these children begin to imitate gestures and the use of products. Sensory toys are highly appealing because these children are beginning to understand simple cause-and-effect relationships. Bright colors, especially yellows and reds, continue their appeal for this age group, as do high contrasts and complex patterns.
Pictures that represent familiar objects are also highly appealing. Suitable toys are soft, sturdy, have rounded edges, and are easily grasped or manipulated by the child.
Increasingly, these children can walk without support. However, they are still unsteady on their feet and their walking resembles toddling more than mature heel-to-toe walking. Now they want to explore everything; though their curiosity far outweighs their judgment for predicting outcomes or foreseeing dangers. They are trying out a variety of basic gross- and fine-motor skills, and are gaining confidence as climbers. They can sing to themselves and will move their bodies to music. Since they are more mobile, they can self-select toys that were once outside their reach. They find basic grasping easier, and can manipulate toys that require simple twisting, turning, sliding, and cranking. Through trial and error, they continue to explore cause-and-effect relationships like dumping and filling activities, and now they enjoy a variety of actions with objects, such as pressing, pushing, pulling, rolling, pounding, beating, clanging, fitting (for example, fitting a round peg into a round hole), stacking, marking, scribbling, carrying, and poking their fingers into objects. They delight in the many effects their actions cause, and enjoy toys that take advantage of this by the use of, for example, various sounds, blinking lights, and spinning wheels.
Children of this age can recognize the names of familiar people, objects, pictures, and body parts. Long-term memory and the development of simple vocabulary using one-word utterances now provide the foundation for make-believe or pretend play, however these children do not make clear symbolic connections until about 18 months of age. These children often imitate common actions they see - such as talking on the phone, from a bottle or cup, or putting on a hat - but only in brief, sporadic episodes. They can defer imitating something for up to a week, and can also do so across a change in context (for example, away from home).
Simple toys that encourage pretend play, such as dress-up materials, dolls, stuffed animals, and small vehicle toys, are appropriate.
These children are more confident and stable at walking, and are exploring other skills such as balancing, jumping, and running. They can pull a toy behind them while walking, climb on and off furniture without assistance, walk up and down stairs with assistance, and - by the end of this period - may be able to kick a ball. They can now pick up and manipulate much smaller objects due to their more developed pincer grasp. They like to sort objects, often grouping them into two categories, and can now fit together simple objects. These children can match angles, which allows them to fit a square peg into a square hole. They can also start to use very simple coupling mechanisms like magnets, large hooks, and hook-and-loop or touch fasteners.
Representational and symbolic thinking emerges during this time frame, and children understand that some toys represent other objects. Representational art, however, is still in its infancy and may seem nonrepresentational to adults. Most of their artistic forays take the form of gestures, or a series of dots may represent, for example, a rabbit hopping. They can use simple phrases, a few active verbs, and directional words, such as and Social play also emerges because children of this age can now communicate with and play alongside each other.
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