Musical vs. Open-ended Toys

Open-ended toys are all. the. rage. right now, and for good reason! They are great for fostering creativity and imagination in children! Open-ended toys are those that encourage children to decide how to play with a toy rather than the toy having a predetermined purpose. When kids decide how best to play with a toy, it engages parts of their brain that are so important for developing critical thinking and problem-solving. At our house, we love open-ended toys and we have plenty of them to prove it. It really is so fun to see your child take a toy and bring it to life through pretend play and imagination!

But, let’s talk about musical toys for a second. Battery-operated toys often get a bad rap because they have a “predetermined purpose,” meaning someone else has decided how your baby should use it and it doesn’t take any abstract thinking. The theory is that these toys don’t teach or inspire your kids to learn or grow. BUT…..

I actually LOVE musical, interactive toys for practicing motor skills. And I want to tell you why:

1. They give your baby instant gratification, which is so important when working on hard motor skills. When you are challenging your baby to work on learning new/hard skills, that might not be the best time to also ask your baby to figure out how he should creatively play with a toy! Baby needs an easy reward for doing hard work!

2. Toys with lights and music will usually keep your baby’s attention for longer than an open-ended toy. This will allow you to keep working on the motor skill for a longer period of time! I’ll say it again…learning new skills is hard! So, if you can get two extra minutes of practice, it will go far in the way of mastering the new skill!

3. Musical toys teach your baby a lot about cause and effect. Baby learns “when I do THIS…THAT happens.” This is such an important concept when your baby is learning about how his body works. We’re teaching him “when I engage my tummy and lift my arm up to hit this toy, these cool lights turn on and I hear fun music.” This makes baby want to keep engaging his tummy and lifting his arm! It’s a win-win!

The whole moral of this story is that my professional opinion is that there is a time for open-ended toys, but there is absolutely a time for fun, engaging, colorful musical toys! You definitely don’t need every single toy that lights up as you walk down the toy aisle at Target, BUT I think it is worth investing in a few musical toys that are multi-functional and can be used to work on a variety of different motor skills!

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