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Toys to Help Babies and Toddlers Understand Cause and Effect

It’s tricky to find toys for babies and young toddlers. They seem to prefer things that can easily fit into their mouths, perhaps to relieve the ache of teething. My son-in-law Jeremy told me that the only time he saw Eloise engage in an activity for any length of time was when she repeatedly kept spinning the wheel to her carriage. This activity however, doesn’t lend itself to gift giving.

Although at the age of one year Eloise’s attention span is extremely limited, she is beginning to show an interest in toys that combine activity and music. Watching her rock back and forth to the rhythm of sounds emanating from any one of her many musical toys, makes me think that perhaps we are born with rhythm, but manage to squash this instinct as we grow into self-consciousness. Just a theory!

As I scanned the shelves at Toys “R” Us®, I saw several of the toys that had been given to May by friends whose children had outgrown them. It gave me pause to think about why these toys continue to appeal in a technologically ever-changing, market. I believe the answer lies in their ability to combine soothing musical sounds with skill development.

Observing Eloise’s attempts at getting her toys to make the musical sounds she so enjoys, made me realize that she is beginning to develop an understanding of the concept of cause and effect, a skill that I often reinforced during my many years of teaching reading at a private school in New York. What follows are three toys that, based on my experience with both of my granddaughters, are engaging tools for helping to develop this concept in babies and young toddlers.

Fisher-Price Roll-a-Rounds: Swirlin’ Surprise Gumball Machine
Each plastic peek-through gumball has a special feature to amuse babies and toddlers whether it is a rattle, small figure or both. “Gumballs” are inserted into the top of the machine, a lever is pushed, the gumball makes its way towards the exit slot, and music is played.

Fisher Price Peek a Blocks Poppity Pop Elephant
This very appealing and colorful pull toy comes with plastic image-filed blocks that can be used to insert into the elephant’s head, creating a simulated elephant sound, or for building towers with babies and young toddlers. When pulled along, the elephant plays a variety of engaging melodies. It has both a volume control and “on,” “off” switch. Before May could walk, she used to sit and move her little body in sync with the music. It’s interesting to see how Eloise now responds in similar fashion.

Fisher-Price Peek-a-Blocks Tumblin’ Sounds Giraffe
Just like its friend the elephant, this plastic giraffe comes equipped with plastic blocks that, when dropped into the giraffe’s head, travel through its long neck and create music upon their exit. However, unlike the Elephant, there is no “on” or “off” nor is there a volume control. .

Also worthy of mention is the Fisher Price Little People Shop and Roll Ride-On toy. Eloise, who is not yet walking has discovered the versatility of this toy. Although her little legs do not quite reach the ground for use as a ride on, she adeptly holds onto its rear handle and scoots around the house on her two legs, much to her parents’ exhaustion. This sound accompanied ride-on toy comes equipped with a removable shopping basket, plastic food and a scanner. As a tool, it can relieve some of the frustration that babies experience over their inability to walk by enabling them to get around quickly and with ease. There is one caveat; grown-ups need to keep a watchful eye on their little speed demons. Eloise has bumped into walls, furniture and has wreaked havoc on poor Mr. Woo, the family’s pet pug.

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