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Toddler Talk: Bead Toys

My son looks so happy right now. He is busy moving little colorful beads along equally colorful wires on a big wooden play cube.

The bead toy has wires going every which way, around and through a complex maze. This toy has captured his attention easily, and he has spent several minutes moving beads from one end to the other.

Have you have noticed that doctors' offices often have these in their waiting rooms? Other than being easy to clean, there may be a reason for this being a popular waiting room toy.

The bead maze toy although simply in concept teaches your toddler many important skills. By being able to hold the bead and maneuver it along the wire, he is learning eye-hand coordination, fine motor development, and cause and effect. Trying to figure out which wire the bead will follow and where it will end up requires complex problem solving. By identifying the beads themselves, he is learning about colors and shapes.

There are very simple mazes with only one or two wires which are designed for infants. With these, your baby can start to use to develop visual and tactile (touch) sense. The bead mazes then increase in complexity to ones that challenge even four to five year olds. Multiple wires, paths, and shapes add difficulty to the toys.

Similar toys that involve moving objects to achieve an end goal, such as spinning a wheel to move little marbles through a maze, are also good for helping children learn problem solving while developing fine motor skills.

Look for toys that are safe for your child's age and that do not contain pieces that are too small that can come loose and pose a choking hazard. Beads and marbles should be firmly attached or enclosed so that they cannot come free and be put in to the mouth.

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