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10 Toddler-Approved Toys and Games for Building Confidence

Because the best way to learn is through play!


As parents, educators, or caregivers, we are constantly on the lookout for ways to support our children's development, seeking that perfect balance between fun and educational value. But what if the key to nurturing our little ones' self-esteem and confidence is less complicated than we think?


What if the answer lies in the simplicity and joy of play? The toys and games that fill our children's days are powerful tools for development, each with the potential to bolster their confidence in unique ways. This realization opens up a world of possibilities where every playtime is an opportunity for growth. From balance bikes that teach the value of persistence and physical coordination, to building blocks that encourage problem-solving and creativity, each item on this list has been selected for its potential to challenge and support children in their journey towards becoming more confident individuals.


Building Blocks

Experts agree, building blocks are foundational (pun intended) for toddlers. Pediatricians and child psychologists praise building blocks as essential for nurturing confidence. These simple, versatile toys promote creativity and problem-solving skills, helping kids gain confidence in their abilities to construct and deconstruct their little masterpieces. Plus, knocking over those towers can be pretty empowering too! The Mom Loves Best website has a comprehensive review of the best toddler block sets, highlighting their educational value, safety, and durability. They mention several top picks, including Melissa & Doug


Dress-Up Costumes

Dressing up allows children to assume different roles and characters, enhancing their imagination and creative thinking. By stepping into different roles, toddlers practice social skills and self-expression. This type of play can boost their confidence as they explore various aspects of their personality and capabilities. They can be anyone from a fearless superhero to a caring nurse, all before naptime. Choosing what costume to wear and how to embody a character also encourages decision-making and independence. Making these choices can bolster a child’s confidence in their judgment and preferences.


Art Supplies

Child therapists and educators alike emphasize the therapeutic power of arts and crafts. Crayons, markers, and finger paints provide toddlers with a creative outlet for self-expression and self-discovery. Through the creative process, children encounter and solve problems, such as how to achieve certain effects with materials. Overcoming these challenges can enhance their confidence in their problem-solving abilities. Moreover, arts and crafts offer children a platform to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas creatively. Successfully communicating what's inside their minds boosts their confidence in their creative abilities. If you're searching for the best supplies or activity sets, Babylist suggests looking for open-ended toys that allow for endless creativity.


Musical Instruments

Music therapists advocate the introduction of musical instruments to toddlers as a way to build confidence. Why? Well, since I am a big music fan myself, let's dive into this one in a little more detail:

  1. Skill Mastery: As children learn and improve their ability to play an instrument, they experience a sense of accomplishment. This progress and mastery of a skill boost their self-confidence.

  2. Self-Expression: Playing an instrument provides a powerful outlet for emotional and creative expression. Being able to express themselves in this way can enhance children's self-esteem and confidence in their unique voice.

  3. Persistence and Resilience: Learning an instrument requires practice and overcoming challenges. Developing persistence and resilience through this process can improve children's confidence in their ability to tackle and overcome difficulties.

  4. Public Performance: Opportunities to perform in front of others, whether in recitals, family gatherings, or school events, help children become more comfortable in the spotlight. Success in these performances can significantly boost their confidence.

  5. Social Interaction: Participating in musical groups or ensembles teaches children teamwork and improves their social skills. Feeling part of a group and contributing to a collective performance can enhance their social confidence.


Puzzles

Child psychologists highlight the educational benefits of puzzles. They teach patience, enhance problem-solving skills, and provide those gratifying "I did it!" moments that boost self-assurance. For puzzles and games that boost problem-solving skills and confidence, educational toy websites and retailers such as the ones listed at the bottom of this article are excellent resources. They usually feature products designed specifically for various developmental stages, ensuring age-appropriateness and safety.


Balance Bikes

Pediatricians recommend balance bikes for their role in developing gross motor skills. By focusing on balance rather than pedaling, children develop physical coordination and balance skills more naturally and quickly. Mastering these skills can significantly boost their self-confidence. Riding a balance bike also allows children to move independently, exploring their environment on their terms. This autonomy helps them develop a strong sense of self-reliance and confidence. Not to mention, children who start with balance bikes typically find the transition to pedal bikes easier and quicker, often skipping the need for training wheels. And achieving this classic childhood milestone can be a significant confidence boost!

Playdough

Occupational therapists promote playdough for its sensory benefits. It helps toddlers explore textures, strengthen hand muscles, and unleash creativity, all of which contribute to building self-assuredness. Manipulating playdough helps develop fine motor skills. As children roll, flatten, and shape the dough, they gain control over their movements. Improving these skills can increase their confidence in other areas requiring fine motor skills, such as writing. Playdough can also be a therapeutic tool for expressing emotions. Creating something tangible allows children to externalize their feelings, which can be empowering and build emotional confidence. Want to add to the fun by making your own homemade playdough in under 5 minutes for less than $1? Check out this recipe from I Heart Nap Time!


Storybooks

As you may have guessed, I'm a huge proponent of books for building confidence and overall emotional intelligence in children. And experts agree! Storybooks are powerful tools that can shape a child's perception of the world, themselves, and their abilities. Let's take a closer look at the different ways books contribute to confidence building:

  1. Introduction to Diverse Characters and Situations: Storybooks introduce children to a wide range of characters and situations, many of which overcome obstacles or solve problems. Seeing characters who face challenges and ultimately succeed can inspire children to believe in their own ability to tackle difficulties.

  2. Identification and Empathy: Children often identify with characters in storybooks, seeing parts of themselves in the stories they read or hear. This identification can lead to empathy, as children understand and share the feelings of others. When they see characters overcoming adversity or achieving goals, it helps them develop a sense of self-efficacy and confidence.

  3. Language and Expression: Reading and listening to stories enhance children's language skills, providing them with a richer vocabulary to express themselves. Being able to articulate thoughts and feelings effectively is a key component of confidence.

  4. Critical Thinking and Imagination: Storybooks stimulate imagination and encourage critical thinking. As children engage with stories, they consider different outcomes, think about motives, and question narratives. This process of engaging critically with material boosts confidence by making children feel capable of understanding and analyzing complex situations.

  5. Social Skills and Understanding: Through stories, children learn about different cultures, traditions, and ways of life, which can increase their social awareness and sensitivity. Understanding and appreciating diversity can build confidence in social situations, as children feel prepared to interact with a wide range of people.

  6. Emotional Intelligence: Storybooks often explore a range of emotions, helping children to understand and manage their own feelings. Recognizing emotions in oneself and others is a crucial step in developing emotional intelligence, a key factor in self-confidence.

  7. Moral and Ethical Lessons: Many storybooks include moral or ethical lessons that teach children about values such as honesty, kindness, and perseverance. Learning these values and seeing the positive outcomes of good behavior can reinforce children’s belief in doing what is right, thereby building their moral confidence.

  8. Achievement and Motivation: The act of reading or being read to itself can be a source of achievement for children. Completing a book provides a sense of accomplishment, while encouragement from parents and teachers further boosts their confidence.

  9. Representation Matters: Seeing characters that look like them or share similar backgrounds can be particularly empowering for children. Representation in storybooks helps build confidence by affirming that children from all backgrounds can be heroes in their stories.

  10. Problem-Solving Skills: Stories often pose problems that need to be solved, and following characters as they work through these problems can help children develop their problem-solving skills. This, in turn, builds confidence in their ability to face and resolve real-life issues.


Outdoor Adventure Sets

Outdoor play offers a multifaceted approach to development, combining physical, emotional, social, and intellectual growth, all of which are essential for a child's overall well-being and confidence. Adventure sets, such as butterfly-catching kits or exploration gear, encourage curiosity and provide a sense of accomplishment in the natural world. According to a study by the UCL Institute of Education, spending time in nature, and engaging in outdoor activities such as identifying plants and trees, has been shown to increase self-esteem in children, with 79% of participants feeling more confident about themselves. Outdoor play also offers children the chance to use all five senses, promotes independence, encourages self-reflection, and builds resilience. These experiences are invaluable in helping children navigate and understand the world around them, laying a solid foundation for healthy emotional development.


Building Robots

For tech-savvy tots, constructing simple robots or tinkering with STEM kits can work wonders. Child development experts see these activities as instrumental in fostering problem-solving skills, logical thinking, and confidence in mastering technology. Frugal Bon Vivant compares different types of building blocks and toys, which could help with selecting STEM kits suitable for young children, emphasizing creativity and problem-solving skills.


These 10 toys and games come highly recommended by child development experts, serving as a wonderful starting point to nurture your toddler's confidence while ensuring a fun time. But let's not forget, the magic doesn't just lie in the toys themselves but in the moments you share playing together. So, get ready to jump into the fun with your little one, who will grow more confident with each play session! (Extra points if you really, truly stay present for this time together. Leave your phone on the other side of the room. Your notifications will still be there when you're finished playing. And don't worry about the mess. No one is judging you except yourself and it will get cleaned up eventually. You're welcome!)



Explore More Educational Toys, Games, and Resources!

  1. Fat Brain Toys: This site specializes in educational toys that stimulate creativity and learning. They offer a wide range of puzzles for toddlers that focus on problem-solving, fine motor skills, and cognitive development.

  2. Melissa & Doug: Known for their high-quality wooden toys, Melissa & Doug offer a variety of puzzles with themes and designs suitable for toddlers. Their puzzles often include large pieces that are easy for little hands to grasp and explore.

  3. Learning Resources: A site that offers a variety of educational toys and games designed to enhance learning through play. Learning Resources has a selection of puzzles and activities that cater to early childhood development, focusing on STEM skills, literacy, and more.

  4. Lakeshore Learning: Lakeshore Learning provides a range of educational materials and toys for children of all ages. Their puzzles and games are designed to support educational standards and foster a love of learning in young children.

  5. Educational Insights: This brand offers innovative toys, games, and educational tools that inspire learning. Their puzzles and games are designed to be both fun and educational, encouraging curiosity and discovery in young learners.

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