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Hands-on toys that drive the imagination key to development, socialization

Tim Reddick co-owns Toys in the Attic, which carries toys that are all about creative play.

In the move toward electronic toys, the developmental aspect of play is being lost. But it's not gone. Many hands-on toys that require thought and strategy and help to build fine motor skills are available, and they have major advantages.

“There are many toys that better allow children to learn through play, such as toys that encourage role-playing and using props to pretend. These types of toys include dolls and trucks or shape sorters. Other props include doll houses, toy fire stations or building blocks,” said Glorious Wilson-Reynolds, a pediatric nurse practitioner with the LaPorte Physician Network in Michigan City. “Toys that allow children to pretend and use their imagination are the most helpful for cognitive and emotional development.”

Toys that encourage interaction with others also are critical. “Children need to establish relationships with others to foster social development. The first relationship is between parent and child. Research shows that the quantity and quality of language development begins with how parents interact with their children,” Wilson-Reynolds said. “Some skills that children lack these days are social and language skills. Playing pretend and dress-up allows opportunities to increase a child’s imagination and creativity.”

Chris and Tim Reddick are doing their part. They opened their first Toys in the Attic store in 2016 and now have three — in Hobart, Valparaiso and Crown Point. Chris Reddick said they carry toys that are all about creative play.

“We don’t do technology,” she said. “It’s all about free play and getting kids back to playing and using their imagination to make up their own scenario instead of having a video game in front of them where they just go along with the action.”

The Reddicks' stores are filled with such toys.

“Manual toys foster early social and language development,” said Wilson-Reynolds. “This cannot be done through electronics as many devices are for individuals. Technology today has caused the brain to expect instant feedback through touch, and children would rather have that over manual toys and games. Parallel play is an important social skill for the toddler and builds on future relationships with others as they get older.”

Basic often is best. “It does not matter the manufacturer of these toys, but it should be a mix of manual and electronic toys. I believe toys such as Lincoln Logs, dolls, trucks, board games, puzzles, and shape sorters will be great for any child,” said Wilson-Reynolds. “Educational toys are very important in early childhood, as early as infancy. Infants learn through interactions with adults or older children such as smile or spoken language.”

Reddick said that what’s great about so many of the toys they carry is that kids can have so much fun they don’t even realize they’re learning.