That ball popper push toy does more for your toddler than you might think! From encouraging babies to stand and walk, to helping toddlers refine movements, push and pull toys support development in unique and surprising ways.
How Push & Pull Toys Support Development
Here’s how push and pull toys exercise little ones’ movement and thinking skills:
Big-muscles: Gross motor skills involve the big muscles of the body, like those in the arms, trunk, and legs. The more toddlers have a chance to use those big muscles, the stronger they get. Enter push and pull toys! In order to use them, toddlers need to exert big-muscle force. This supports movement skills like standing, walking, and pivoting.
Coordination: Learning to manipulate push and pull toys requires a lot of coordination! Crawling or walking while pushing or pulling a toy is a lot more complicated than crawling or walking alone. Getting from here to there with one of these toys can support balance skills, too.
Hands and fingers: Push and pull toys are also excellent for fine motor skills. Toddlers learn to grasp these toys in ways that make them move effectively, which can strengthen their hands and grip, and refine their hand and finger movements.
Spatial skills: Spatial skills helps toddlers understand where they and objects are in relation to each other. As they push or pull their toy, their brains use spatial skills to help them decide where to go, how far they should go, and what turns they need to make to get to their goal. As you play along with your toddler, you can also introduce directional words, like around, under, left, right. Bonus: Doing this boosts language skills, too!
Thinking: Push and pull toys can support more than movement skills. Some of them require little ones to put on their thinking caps, too. Look for ones with built-in shape, color, and counting activities. Keep in mind that options without batteries are best, because they involve more open-ended play that’s rich in problem-solving opportunities.
Imagination: Push and pull toys are a unique addition to pretend play. Toy lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, shopping carts, baby strollers, wagons, and dogs give toddlers endless opportunities to try out different characters. And praising those pretend vacuuming sessions are a fantastic way to encourage little ones’ eagerness to help around the house!
A Note on Safety
We want to be clear that when we talk about using push toys to practice walking, we’re not talking about baby walkers. Unlike toy strollers, grocery carts, and ball poppers, baby walkers contain little ones, and have been deemed dangerous by leading child development experts.
Also, any time your tot is playing with a push or pull toy, be sure they’re in an area where there aren’t any steps that could cause them to fall while they’re distracted by all the fun.