All children love to have fun, play and use their imagination. During that time, there is a process of learning going on. That process of learning can best be seen when they’re playing and selecting the best educational toys can help your child’s growth and potential. Anytime your child is entertained and learning is a good thing. The concept of an educational toy does not simply mean number games or letter rearrangement activities. Toys that encourage the development of the necessary skills like motor, vision, eye-hand, cognitive, creative, imaginative, social, emotional, hearing and listening are valuable to developmental play time.

According to Drs. Dorothy and Jerome Singer of Yale University, there are six essential elements of developmental play that can be seen throughout age-appropriate educational toys and they help give us a better understanding of how to select toys for our children.

Six Essential Elements of Developmental Play

Motor Development: This is the enhancement of gross motor skills that use large muscle groups for activities such as kicking, balancing, running, jumping, lifting, climbing, hopping and swinging, and the development of more delicate fine motor skills such as the pincher grip of thumb and forefinger. For gross motor skills, look for toys that require large and controlled movements to allow him to gain better muscle control. These include wagons, play strollers, tricycles, ride-on-cars, jump ropes, hula hoops and hopscotch sets.  For fine motor skills, look for toys that allow your child to pick up and manipulate small objects such  puzzles, play foam, keys & locks and craft related activities.

Vision and Eye-Hand Development: This involves the expansion of keen powers of perception and of the ability to use the eyes and hands together in coordination to perform a task. Look for toys that involve scooping, digging, throwing, stirring, pouring, squirting and picking up small objects.

Cognitive Development: Skills of this nature involve the advancement of the ability to learn new knowledge and to understand and apply this knowledge. This will allow your child to improve his or her capacity for mental activities such as evaluating, reasoning, judging, interpreting, comparing and contrasting, inferring, predicting, sequencing and visualizing. This skill helps your child master specific content knowledge relating to vocabulary, mathematics, science and more. Seek out toys that require the use of logic, finding solutions, solving problems and identifying patterns. These include board games, like  River Crossing or Railroad Rush Hour, science and nature kits, building or model sets and things that have pieces that need put together.

Hearing, Listening, and Voice: This comprises the promotion of skills related to the senses and communication. Development of this area allows your child to discriminate between different types of sensory input. Look for toys that appeal to your child’s senses, such as maraca shakers, pennywhistle, ukulele and  jinglebands.

Social and Emotional Development: Skills of this kind include the improvement of how your child interacts with others and how the child behaves.  Toys to seek out include balls they can throw back and forth to other children, board games, and card games.

Creative and Imaginative Development: This involves the advancement of skills relating to pretending about the world and using the imagination to explore new ideas and possible solutions to problems. Toys to look for include arts and crafts, costumes, props and pretend toys.