Cause-and-effect toys help children understand that their actions have an impact. With these toys, a child’s action leads to a reaction that can be in the form of a sound (musical toy), movement (ball drop, spinner), or a new creation (nuts and bolts, building blocks).
We love cause-and-effect toys because they give children foundational problem-solving and critical-thinking experiences. They invite curiosity and prompt children to tinker around with objects to figure out how the world works.
- Critical thinking
- Hand-eye coordination
- Object permanence
- Fine motor skills
- Sensory awareness
- Tactile exploration
- Musical skills
Try these tips to add challenge, simplify, or switch up how you play with cause-and-effect toys. Bring in the whole family by simplifying for younger siblings or stepping it up with older siblings!
- Wait for It …: Even though it may be tempting to show your child how the toy is used, let them discover the ‘effect’ on their own, even if it takes a few weeks! If they are the one to pick up the shaker and realize it shakes, or discover what happens when the ball drops, it builds their problem-solving skills.
- Tummy Time: Use these toys during tummy time to encourage your child to track the toy, or pre-crawlers to practice lifting their head while on all fours, or early crawlers to move toward the toy.
- Facial Feature Teacher: Your child looks at your reaction to know how to respond. Model surprise and excitement when you/they manipulate the toy.
- Ta Da!: Babies develop object permanence around 6-9 months old, which is the ability to understand that an object still exists even if it’s out of sight. Use these toys to develop this skill, and build up the reveal.
- Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: You may have to repeat the action over and over again before your child is able to understand the full ‘cause-effect’ cycle. That’s natural! Babies are taking in a lot of information (the colors, sound, the textures) so it may take them multiple views before they grasp the action-reaction.
- But, Why? How? Children are full of wonder. Ask them to explain how the toy works. Have them break it down step-by-step or explain it to a younger sibling. It may require a full investigation!
- Sensory Shutdown: Have your child play with the toy with their eyes closed, or with a non-dominant hand.
- Follow My 1-2-3!: In this follow-the-leader game, have your child do a multi-step action with their toy (e.g. stack blocks, screw in bolts, shake the instrument twice fast, then once slow etc.) and then you have to repeat it back in the correct order. Build on the steps to see how many steps you can create and follow.
- Upside Down and Inside Out: Challenge your child to use the toy while in a new movement position (e.g. spin the top while upside down or hammer the ball in when it’s on the tallest shelf). (Make sure that they are safely using the toy.)
- Toy Inventor Time: Create your own cause-and-effect toy with household materials. Do you want the toy to make a sound? Move? Can you make a toy launcher? Picker Upper? The sky is the limit!
- Vary the Variable: Try adding a new variable to the toy (e.g. if it’s a ball drop, try a different texture or size ball; if it’s a drum, use a different tool as a drumstick). How does this change the effect? (e.g. Is the ball slower? Does it fit? Is the sound quieter? Louder?).