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A Paediatrician On Toys That Can Help Your Child’s Brain Development

Toys have an integral role in childhood development. While we may all have pleasant memories of a favourite doll or stuffed animal from our early years, the part these objects played in our development probably ran deeper than we realised as kids.
Parents all want to give their children the best start in life — considering toys play such a vital part in assisting brain development and life skills, choosing ones that'll prove beneficial to a child can be tricky.
To gain further insight, we spoke to Dr Nicole Grant, an Occupational Paediatric Therapist at Early Start Australia, about what to look for in a toy that'll aid a child's brain development.
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Why is play so important to a child’s development? 
According to Dr Grant, play helps the neural pathways in the brain connect, allowing children to develop integral life skills early on. Some of the key skills developed from play include cause and effect, problem-solving, spatial awareness and spatial orientation, attention and concentration. 
This makes it essential for babies and toddlers to engage with play, compared to any other stage in their life, because of the brain's rapid growth during these years. She added that key social skills are also developed early on if children experience playing with a sibling or friend. 
“It’s important that children experience a variety of play opportunities that enable them to use all of their senses and engage all of the parts of their bodies,” Dr Grant explained. 
What kind of toys help actively aid this development?
Toys are an integral part of play for kids — but they're not all created equal. Dr Grant noted that the best toys are ones that “spark imaginative and creative play and can be used in multiple ways”.
Examples of toys that can do this include sandpits, car and train sets, play food (and other pretend play items), cardboard boxes, books and LEGO bricks — including their new DUPLO range that was created with the intention to boost children's confidence, resilience and self-expression.
“Natural materials provide a rich sensory experience and should always be on offer,” said Dr Grant.
It's worth noting that these bricks are larger in size, making them safer for toddlers to play with, as it's recommended that parents avoid age-inappropriate toys or those with loose parts.
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“Supervision is a must for young children with any toy. If in doubt, check with an early childhood specialist or occupational therapist,” Dr Grant added.
What are the signs that show a toy isn’t benefiting a child? 
Dr Grant noted that if a child is actively engaging with a toy, then they are most likely obtaining some sort of benefit. However, she did note that if a child isn't using a toy in the way it's intended, parents may want to seek professional advice.
“If your child is playing with a toy in a way that it is not designed for, like constantly spinning wheels of a truck, then you may wish to seek advice from a professional,” said Dr Grant.
She also noted that it's normal for a child to lose interest in a toy after a while. She suggested that if this occurs to integrate the toy into a more complex game in the future, as it may serve a new purpose.
LEGO DUPLO is created to harness children's resilience, creativity and self-expression. Check out the full range here.
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