Good Toys for Social and Emotional Development

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Hi everyone! I’ve raised three of the most incredible kids you could ever dream of – kind-hearted, helpful (without being asked), caring – you name it. On the scale of emotional development – I’ve hit it out of the ballpark because they’re confident, fun loving and just good people.

I see people looking for toys that can help with emotional development. So I want to give MY take on what kinds of toys help with this aspect and how you, as a parent, can make them for this purpose.

Start them young – teach them how to respect others, animals and themselves. My kids, from toddler on – were so gentle with toys and therefore, gentle with humans and pets, too.

#1 – Dolls and Emotional Development

When they’re little, you should cuddle them and nurture them. And let them practice those skills they’re seeing you use on their toys.  If your kid is cooing at his or her doll, gently feeding it, and cuddling it – you’re doing something right.

If they’re dragging it by the hair, drawing on its face and pummeling it – you might need to work on teaching your child to show love to a “baby.”

Look how serious she is as she takes care of her baby:

The best doll is one that looks and feels real. I love the soft dolls like this one. Add on the little magic juice and milk bottles for them – my kids loved swaddling their baby up and “feeding it” – so pick up some little baby blankets if you don’t have one already. We just used my kids’ blankets.

Don’t forget to get the baby doll accessories. Let them enjoy the full range of nurturing toys that go with baby dolls, including:

To me, seeing how a child treats a baby doll is a good indicator as to how they’re treated.

#2 – Arts and Crafts for Emotional Development

You want your child to create things they can be proud of. You, as the mom or dad, need to provide great feedback for your child! Start with “no mess” things like the Aquadoodle mat. My kids loved this!

I always made a big deal out of their drawings and they had a blast – and there was no grumpy parenting over spills and messes when it came to arts and crafts.

Let your child make you proud. For example – I would go into my son’s room and act kind of sad and sigh and say, “I could REALLY use your help with something VERY important.”

“What?” he would ask eagerly.

“Well, our driveway and sidewalk are SO ugly. And I saw this lady down the street with a beautiful sidewalk and driveway that her kids had decorated. I just wish I could do it but I’m no good at that.”

“I’ll do it!!” he’d excitedly step up.

“You will? Oh thank you!!”

Then give him a set of sidewalk chalk and go outside and ooh and ahh over his magnificent creation AND let him feel good about the fact that he HELPED you. Kids love to help.

Any of the arts and crafts supplies like PlayDough, fingerpaints, Crayons and cutouts will be fun for them and give you the opportunity to build their confidence. And always, always showcase their art on your fridge proudly. You might also share a picture of it (and let them see it) on Facebook.

#3 – Animal Toys for Nurturing

I see some children being awfully mean with pets. Not mine. Mine were (and are) angels – and yours  can be, too! You need to start them early – preferably before you get a pet for your family.

As for social enrichment, “Data from a small study conducted by researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University reported that adolescents who had animal experience were more likely to see themselves as important contributors to communities and more likely to take on leadership roles.” ~Surfky.com

Start with a simple stuffed animal for your child. Let them choose if possible – but make it something soothing, not a hard plastic shell toy. And preferably a real animal type toy – not a unicorn or Pokemon, but a dog, cat, or even an Octopus!

The I suggest you get them toys to help them take care of their animals. They have the neatest little veterinarian toys now for kids. This helps them learn to nurture their pet.

You can get a simple little vet kit for kids or upgrade to the entire veterinarian hospital cart option like this:

After awhile, you can see how they’ll do with toys that mimic real pets. You can get them for pets such as:

  • Birds
  • FurReal Friends – best line of pretend pets like dogs, cats, monkeys, horses and more. They even has a dog that poops! (Good lesson for teaching your child to pick up after Fido)

What do you do if you notice your child being mean to a pretend pet? Stop them with a worried sound such as, “Oh, no, (Insert child’s name)! We don’t ever want to (explain what they did wrong) a little animal. If (pet’s name) could talk, do you think he might be scared/angry/sad that you were doing that? What’s another way you could take care of him that would make him feel better?”

Initiating the conversation helps the child understand that they need to treat pets right. I know in Santa Barbara, they had so many instances of animal cruelty that they had to launch an animal kindness campaign – teaching kids how to treat animals and be kind to ALL living things. So that’s the next step after a toy animal – get your child around real ones and volunteer to see how they do before you adopt one.

#4 – Dress Up Toys to Help Build Social Skills

My kids LOVED Halloween time – because I’d always buy about 3 costumes each. They loved dressing up all during the year – as firefighters, action heroes, chefs and more.

I loved this because it helped teach my kids how to treat everyday people they might encounter. Let them tell you what kind of pretend play items they want – maybe a costume and some props.

For example, my child might say they want to open up a restaurant. So I’d get them a cool kids’ chef’s costume and some pretend food. They were only one person, so when it came time to pretend, they’d be the waiter/waitress AND chef.

Letting them approach me as the customer and take my order helped them see how to treat those people. And of course, sometimes I’d “act up” to see how they responded. I’d let them correct my behavior. For instance, I might pretend I had an unruly kid with me in their restaurant.

Allowing them to see how the chef/waiter might be frustrated and have to deal with unruly customers helped them understand why they should never do that to someone else. And they never did!

#5 – Educational Toys for Behavioral Development

I made a short video for you to discuss what my thought are on this. Educational toys can be great ways to teach your child how to develop emotionally and socially. Watch it here and I’ll link to what I mention below:

So here are the products I mentioned:

  • The Butterfly Garden – a great way to teach them to care for all living things and to share duties with others.
  • Magnetic Letters for the Fridge – teach them to make others feel happy using special surprise messages they leave (and learn how to spell) for others. Make sure you have others leave them messages, too – and discuss how good it made them feel (it makes them want to make others feel good, too)!
  • Rainbow Counting Bears and Sorting Cups – help the bears get their whole family together again! Create different scenarios – they’re lost, nervous, worried, etc. Your child will need to know how to soothe others when their friends are scared at school, for example.
  • Counting Abacus – Make it more than just about being able to spout off numbers! Your child can count other things, such as good deeds or positive things about their loved ones. They’ll love doing something kind for someone and being able to move the counter over and count up how many good deeds they’ve done!

#6 – Chore Charts and Helper Toys for Better Social Skills

Kids love to help. Let me tell you, that when you approach it correctly, your kids will find pleasure in helping you with chores. I didn’t have to get angry and issue ultimatums to my kids about cleaning or helping me with something – because they would step up on their own and do it.

Even to this day, I’ll come home to my house clean as a surprise because it makes them feel good knowing it makes ME feel good!

So how did I do it? Well one thing I did was make it fun. Start with something like a kid’s grocery cart. We owned a little one kind of like this. When my kids would have their toys out, or any kind of clutter was out, I’d ask if they could act like a grocery store clerk and put all of the clutter items “back on the proper shelf,” meaning their room, or wherever. I’d make it a game. They enjoyed it.

Another thing my kids enjoyed were chore charts, but not with an ultimatum. I would reward my kids for helping. Very small amount or treats or experiences (even “watch a movie with mom” or “play a game of your choice with me”) for the accumulation of  points.

# 7 – Books That Encourage Healthy Emotional Development

No, it’s not necessarily a toy. But let me tell you that books were perhaps the #1 best thing I could have bought to experience with my kids in their social and emotional development. We spent time every night (and sometimes during the day) reading stories.

My kids all knew how to read when entering kindergarten – just from me reading to them with them beside me. And the books we chose usually had an emotional impact or lesson like this one:

I have three recommendations today for this:

First, the Berenstain Bears books. I love this series and my kids did, too. You help them learn about sticking up for themselves, treating others with kindness (or being firm when necessary). They interact with relatives, neighbors, friends, enemies, strangers and so on. We see their faults and watch their enlightenment unfold. They’re amazing.

Second, The Giving Tree. There’s a part of it that seems kind of sad, but the overall message of the book is about those who give selflessly of themselves and how others can sometimes take and take – but they sometimes realize what they’ve done and what’s truly important isn’t what someone can give you, but how much they love you. Wonderful message in it.

Third, the series of Little Miss and Mr. Men books. These are so precious and they explain emotions perfectly! For example, Little Miss Bossy will teach your child how NOT to act that way (and the character always gets their comeuppance which will serve as a warning). There are good characters, too – like Little Miss Hug, who gives hugs to those in need. Great character building lessons in these. And funny to read, too!

# 8 – Puppets and Emotional Development

Puppets are fun toys to help teach your child social and emotional development. With puppets, they can act out scenarios and you can throw curve balls at them and see how they handle things.

Pick any kind of bestselling puppets you want. They can be full-sized, finger puppets (great for your purse and to keep kids busy in waiting rooms, by the way), animal types or human figures.

The best ones I like are the Peach Hand Puppets. These look like humans, and they all sorts of characters you can role play with – boys, girls, moms, dads, grandparents, doctor, teacher, policeman – you name it!

So here’s an example of one:

This one is Bobby – and you can find boys and girls with all different hair colors (to match your child if you want). Make sure when you play with them, you go through a range of character emotions on different days. Use those Little Miss and Mr. Men books as guides – like bossy characters, worried characters, nosey characters and more.

#9 – Toys for Role Playing School Social Issues at Home

By school pretend toys, I mean get toys that replicate the school environment. School buses, classrooms, etc. My kids loved having a chalkboard and pointer so they could act like the teacher. We’d set up stuffed animals to create my “classmates” and I’d act like various types of students.

My child had to deal with each type of emotion. The good kids who were helpful, the unruly ones who interrupted, etc. Ask them questions afterward. I remember one time I kept “talking in class” and my daughter got frustrated.

Afterwards, I asked her why – she said because she was the teacher and nobody was listening to her. I said, “Yes, teachers work hard to get that career and when kids are talking, it makes them feel like what they have to say doesn’t matter.” She always remembered that in school – making teachers feel valued by paying attention.

Get a toy school bus that has kids in it so you can see how they imagine the interaction. You can also get a toy classroom like this Peppa Pig one:#10 – Games to Support Emotional Development

I never liked parents who refuse to ever let their kids win. I’m sorry, but that’s just mean. Kids need some confidence building and as a 30-40 something adult, you’re going to have more skills than a small child. You don’t have to be the kind of parent where everyone gets a trophy, either – it’s important to learn how to lose.

Many games can help your child learn how to be healthy emotionally because they learn how to win with grace and how to lose that way, too.

The TableTopics packs (the ones appropriate for kids and families) are great fun. They ask questions such as, “Who is your favorite super hero and why do they inspire you?”

The Family Gathering Version is good, too. They’re not necessarily games per se, but you can make it one! If they give a good answer (and don’t back out), then you can give them a “chip” or something. When they accumulate the participation points, they get some sort of reward or simply win.

Other good choices:

There are so many toys that can help your child develop healthy emotionally and socially, but the one main ingredient – is you! How can you show love to your child, let them witness sympathy and kindness as well as maintaining self respect and not allowing themselves to be run over by others?

Take time to think before you buy a toy and brainstorm some ways you can use that product to help you raise a better person. If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help!

Tiff 😉

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