The developmental period of one year olds – in particular a twelve to fifteen-month-old child – is a very exciting and rewarding one but, for many of us who have lived through it (more than once!), it can also come with challenges, especially when trying to find the right educational toys. For many parents, it represents one of their favourite periods where their little one is developing their own little personality, finding their feet and becoming a little bit more independent every day. They are no longer babies, they are showing more interest in their environment, getting stronger, becoming more mobile and developing their motor skills so don’t want to be static and still in one place. They want to move and explore whether it’s crawling, rolling or cruising, so to help them on the next stage of their learning journey it is important to be prepared.
When we think of developmental milestones, we often think of the key ones such as crawling, walking and verbalising their first words but, there are many other skills that are just as important that lay the foundations for future learning and success. Our little ones are subconsciously and consciously working hard as their brains develop to master key skills like concentration, perseverance and independence – and they do this through playing and exploring. It should be noted that all children develop and learn at different paces so don’t feel perturbed or under pressure for your little one to achieve the same milestone moments as their peers – they will get there in their own time…
One of the earliest educational or developmental toys given to a baby – often at birth – is a mobile hung over a play mat or cot. These are often given as gifts because they are aesthetically pleasing or match a nursery décor however it offers an amazing opportunity for a young infant to subconsciously develop their focus and concentration skills which can then be developed by looking at picture books. They spend hours looking, observing and watching when given the time and space to explore. Building the ability to focus will serve them well throughout their lives and from this stage they can develop extended periods of concentration.
As a parent, we feel great pride and satisfaction when our child accomplishes a new skill or completes a new challenge without our assistance. By equipping them with developmentally appropriate educational toys and learning materials for one-year olds and observing from a safe distance, we are empowering them to make their own choices, which is incredibly important even at this young age. Studies have shown that young children encouraged to develop their own sense of independence work harder, retain more information, perform better, are more positive, creative and well-rounded individuals in later life.
When a child is presented with a new toy or puzzle, they may struggle to work it out to begin with but, as they develop new skills, they are able to practice and eventually master or complete it. This greatly enhances their self-esteem from a young age and helps with their self-worth and a belief that they can achieve and reach goals if they are determined, focused and work hard. Children with a strong ‘perseverance mindset’ will work longer on overcoming new challenges and accomplishing new tasks resulting in greater success academically, professionally and personally.
Preparing your child’s learning environment
You may have adopted the Montessori Method for some time now, maybe since birth or maybe in the last few months, but as each developmental stage approaches, you need to prepare and make changes to help support and nurture the next stage of your child’s learning adventure.
By twelve months old, it is highly recommended that a child is sleeping in a floor level bed. This is because it is believed that the low level allows greater opportunities to explore their environment and encourages greater independence.
A dedicated area for mealtime should be set up that incorporates a ‘weaning dining set’ comprising a small table and chair. Another dedicated zone should be set aside for ‘work’. “Play is the work of the child” Maria Montessori once said. This area should be furnished with age-appropriate toys such as developmental toys for one-year olds, learning materials and practical-life activities. Furniture should include child size chairs and / or low-level stools, a low-level table, a wardrobe and a low-level shelving unit.
When selecting your educational, developmental or Montessori inspired toys for one year olds it is important not to invest in too many items (despite the urge to do so), as this will overwhelm a child at this age. Maybe choose a selection of around ten (twelve at the most) toys to engage small children and rotate them every few weeks to keep them enthused and engaged.
As young children learn to use their bodies and start to develop basic co-ordination skills, they are also developing cognitive abilities through movement and touch. Key activities that help encourage and nurture this development include stacking, sorting, mark making and generally handling different sized and shaped objects. This also helps to learn early mathematical concepts, which again helps to develop a good framework for later life. Here is a selection of educational toys, educational materials and developmental toys for one-year-olds that we have selected from our website (and have been tried and tested by our children at this age), that will support your child’s learning and take them on to the next stage of their learning journey:
Most children love to get their hands dirty whether it is involving sand, water, mud, play dough or other textures (although parents aren’t always keen on the clean up operation afterwards!). It provides hours of fun and opportunities to explore different textures and consistencies, and it can engage all the senses. Rolf and Nienhuis Montessori have a number of educational toys that can be used at the beach or in the garden (when the weather permits) that helps children to explore their environment.
You can also gather a selection of different sized beakers and fill a bucket with water and let your little one experiment with filling and pouring – be warned through, they will get a little wet so it’s good to do this in the garden or in the bath!
Classic wooden stacking toys are perfect for this age to help encourage hand-eye co-ordination and develop motor skills. Erzi has created a colourful traditional educational wooden stacking toy which helps children to recognise colours, shapes and sizes and continues to be a favourite throughout the generations. We also love the Glukskafer wooden block quadrant which is Waldorf inspired, perfect for stacking, building, counting and creating.
Children enjoy leaving their personal mark on things whether it’s in the sand on the beach, in the mud on a rainy day, using chalk on a black board or dipping their fingers in a paint pot – or using a bush and wiping it across a piece of paper. It offers a great opportunity for little ones to express themselves non-verbally which is especially important when they are unable to verbalise their feelings in a coherent way. We have a great selection of creative educational materials for one year-olds from a number of brands including Arts & Crafts and Mercurius.
We adore the beautiful textures, colours and play opportunities that play silks offer a young child. Sarah’s Silks can be introduced to little ones from an early age. We particularly love the silk & wood teether. The wooden ring can be used to help a teething infant during the challenging period of cutting teeth, and the soothing feeling that the soft silk provides. There’s plenty of opportunity for sensory exploration as they run the fabric through their fingers, through their hands, wave it in the wind or stroke it over their face.
As mentioned previously, one year old children are in that ‘in between stage’. They are sadly no longer babies but not quite toddlers and they are still very limited on what they can do so, in addition to the ideas and tips we’ve outlined above, a great reference for additional parenting advice is The Montessori Baby by Simone Davis and Junnifer Uzodike – a comprehensive guide to provide advice and support for new parents.
We hope that this article has given you some support, advice and insight in to navigating this exciting, challenging yet rewarding stage of your child’s learning adventure, but always remember that children develop and learn at their own pace and achieve milestones in their own time whether it’s ahead of their peers or months behind.
It’s not a reflection on us as parents, or our ability to navigate the daily challenges of parenting but always know that here at Teia Education & Play, we have a wide selection of toys and learning resources to help entertain and educate little ones as well as reference materials to provide support and guidance for you!