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Best Gifts To Support Healthy Childhood Development: The Play Lab's Favorite Toys

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

Whether you are looking for a birthday gift or a present for the holidays, we’ve got you covered. Here are our favorite toys and activities to support your budding toddler's brain development. These toys are colorful, can improve creativity, imagination, hand-eye coordination and more.

They have been recognized by experts and have been used by Montessori, Steiner, Waldorf-based curriculum and by occupational therapists. They also have been tested here at The Play Lab NY and are not only our favorites but the children’s too!

Hand-Eye Coordination and Creativity

The origin of these polyhedric stacking stones is in the Japanese practice of piling stones. Each block is different in size and shape, just as stones are in nature. Each block is a polyhedron, a solid with many (poly) faces (hedron).

These are ideal for building towers, landscapes and for piling up as the child has to consider the best way to place each block, resulting in a ton of problem-solving and wrist rotation. These are fantastic for promoting creativity, resilience, and persistence (as the towers continually fall over and the child rebuilds) and for developing concentration and coordination.

Sorting, Critical Thinking, Creativity

These colorful rainbows, first manufactured in the 1970’s, are inspired by the educational ideas of the Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861- 1925), whose name the "Steiner Movement"continues today.

The stacking toy is designed to encourage open-ended play and stimulate creativity. It is a learning tool to practice the colors of the rainbow that you can stack in unbelievable ways. It grows with your child, as his imagination grows and the ability to make more complex structures will adjust.

Balance, Core Strength and coordination

Curved wooden balance boards are believed to have first been used by the children in Waldorf Steiner schools. As the benefits of using these balance boards became more widely known we have seen them grow in popularity and use.

They provide a great form of exercise as your child rocks, balances and climbs the board. They are particularly useful at increasing strength and core stability, improving balance and reflexes, fostering gross motor coordination and weight distribution, and developing spatial awareness and proprioception. There are even entire kid’s exercise and yoga programs designed around the balance board! A wooden balance board is a fantastic, open-ended resource that can really inspire all types of imaginative and constructive play.

Imagination and Pretend Play

Research has identified that an important benefit of early pretend play is its enhancement of a child's capacity for cognitive flexibility and, ultimately, creativity. It is an essential enabler for understanding other people's perspectives and for thinking creatively.

This Doctor's Valise Play Set from Moulin Roty is one of the children's favorite toys at The Play Lab NY. Your child will come to the rescue aiding patients with colds, bumps and bruises! It's the perfect gift for your little doctor in the making and also helps children develop empathy while they play.

Self Regulation and Sensory Integration

Swinging allows a child to neutralize the disruptions that are caused by their vestibular system, which can often originate in the inner ear. The smooth, back-and-forth motion can be soothing and calming to a child, which is why you will often see swings utilized in classroom or therapy settings.

Swings can challenge core strength, balance, righting reactions, and motor skills in different ways, depending on the design you choose. Using swings within therapeutic activities can build these skills in novel, fun ways.

All these toys as well as a Toy Store featuring French-designed Moulin Roty toys can be found at The Play Lab NY, a communal playroom in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The elements of The Play Lab have been crafted to encourage creative independent play and promote focus. Activities and educational components have been designed to grow with your child as they work through different developmental phases including fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving, and concentration. Come explore our space and our selection of toys and activities to support healthy childhood development!

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