Kids need to eat. Kids need to sleep. Most fun of all, kids need to play! Kids spend the majority of their days playing, and one of the best ways to make the most of that time is to give them playthings that stimulate them physically and developmentally. Here are some ideas for choosing products that are both fun and help them learn important social and motor skills.
Babies and toddlers are naturally adventurous, but they need to be protected during their explorations with soft play mats and equipment. There are so many fun and safe ways to make indoor play for toddlers an active experience for them, but make sure you pay attention to the age ranges given for your soft play items to decrease risk of injury.
These playthings are much more than just a fun activity for your child; they’re actually developmental toys and can be used as play therapy for kids with special needs as well. Choose products that promote a variety of different activities—climbing, rolling, and crawling—to help children learn motor skills. Developmental toys for infants should promote motor skills as well as introduce ideas such as colors, shapes and textures—all while providing a soft, safe exploration space.
Make sure your indoor play equipment is made from easy-to-clean material in case of spit-ups or diaper leaks. If you purchase equipment composed of multiple pieces, be sure the attachments are strong enough to hold the pieces securely in place when assembled.
Many kids today spend way too much time in front of the television or computer. The right outdoor play set will entice them to get active and have fun. Swingsets are probably at the top of most kids’ wish lists when it comes to outdoor play. With so many fun products available today, you can choose a swingset that’s perfect for your needs. When considering outdoor playsets, think about how your children will use them today and in the future. Would they like a rock climbing wall? Attached sandbox? Slide? Rope ladder? Fireman’s pole? All of these accessories and many more can be incorporated into the perfect set that will be used for years to come.
Wooden swing sets are popular with both parents and kids because they look great in any setting, don’t rust, and hold up well for years. When selecting wood swing sets, look for products that are stained and sealed, whose hardware is flush with the wood, and with no rough edges. In addition to wooden playground equipment, you can choose from sets that are made of metal or plastic. Make sure that any metal items are rustproof and that plastic sets are UV protected so that colors won’t fade.
When purchasing individual swings for backyard playsets—or as a stand-alone toy—there are many styles to choose from: molded swing, two-child swing, disc swing, standing swing, tire swing and the traditional sling swing. The best choice is the one your kids would most enjoy. For safety and comfort, look for a swing that comes with a rope attachment or a chain that’s coated in plastic. Infants and toddlers need their own swings to make outdoor play safe. When choosing an infant swing, look for sturdy construction and a high back to support baby’s head. A toddler swing is just right for bigger kids who aren’t quite ready for regular swings yet. Select a toddler swing that includes a safety belt or has an enclosed bucket seat.
The Bottom Line
Both soft play and outdoor play products encourage kids to be active, while promoting physical and mental development. Choose products that function well for your children’s needs today and that will provide enjoyment in the coming years as well.
Our Mom Expert
Caron Webber, 37, is the mother of five children, ages 2 to 12.
“About 10 years ago, we purchased a backyard playground set with a slide, three swings, monkey bars, trapeze—the works. My husband and I are avid outdoor enthusiasts, and we knew we didn’t want our kids spending their time in front of a television set all day. Our kids have made so many memories with that set, and it’s taught them how to be active without it feeling like ‘work.’ The added bonus is that all of their friends want to come to our house to play on the swingset, so my kids are always safe at home—and having a great time!”