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How To Pick The Best Educational Toys

Teaching your child with math, science or history toys isn’t the only way to ensure your child is learning while playing with toys. Toys can be educational as long as it aids in the positive development of the child. Learning how to grab an object is a great way for a baby to learn motor skills. Toys that encourage older children to use creativity and logical skills help them through solving problems. Choosing the right kind of toy can be a task in itself. Here are a few pointers to help you out:

Toys should be Fun

Toys are designed to be fun. If a toy stops being fun, then it stops being a toy. Encouraging fun with an educational toy will open up a whole new world and new skills to your kids. Picking out age-appropriate toys is important to give them challenges. Too much challenge and the child will get frustrated and will stop playing with the toy. Not enough challenge and the child won’t grow problem solving skills, coordination or even the ability to learn.

Parents Role

Parents, you need to choose the right toys that match the child’s age and abilities. As a parent, you will need to teach your child how to play with the toy. Yes, that means getting down on the floor and playing with your children. Let the child choose the toy they want to play with. When the child chooses the toy, they might play and learn for a longer period of time.

Elements of Educational Toys

It’s all up to you to decide if the toy is educational. Manufacturers may claim that the toy is educational, but is it right for you child? Here are a few things to look for on a toy to help your child’s education and development:

  • Stimulation – This kind of toy is especially important for young babies, who are still developing new skills. Check to see which senses the toy stimulates, whether that means visual, aural or touch.
  • Imagination – Does the toy stimulate the imagination? Sometimes the best educational toys for imagination are the simplest ones. For example, some studies have shown that simple wooden toys encourage creative thinking more than complex electronic gadgets.
  • Social  - Iѕ the toy good for playing with other children? Playtime is an excellent opportunity for children to develop social skills with siblings or friends. Some toys are more conducive to socializing than others.
  • Expression – Does the toy help children to express themselves? This could mean toys involving artwork, writing, taking photographs or telling stories.

These are not the only things to look for in an educational toy, but they are a good place to start. Educational toys are designed to make the child happy, grow and learn from the time spent with the toy. Our responsibility as parents is to make sure they are learning and, most of all, having fun with that toy.

 

What Children Can Learn From Educational Toys

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.

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Encourage learning through educational toys

Like all good parents, we know the importance of mental development in our children. Children are a blank canvas, ready for input and knowledge. You have to teach your children because they do not have the ability and patience to teach themselves. The problem is not having a lot of patience if the child wants to do other things or they get distracted from the learning experience.

All children want to learn but don’t want to sit there for a long period of time. Having fun while learning will compel the child to want to learn more. Try putting a toy and some educational material next to a child. Most of the time, the child will go for the toy and won’t even care about the educational material sitting next to them. So what do you do when you try to teach your child and all they want to do is play with the toy?

Educational toys are a great way to introduce the learning material and fun of the toy at the same time. The child will think “toy”, but will be having fun learning at the same time. Toys can teach them ABC’s, 1-2-3’s, shapes, colors and other essential motor skills. They are also very helpful with mental development for the child. Educational toys bridge the gap between learning material and the fun aspect of a toy.

Tips for Easier Toy Shopping

Finding a toy for your child or a gift for another child can seem like a little bit of a hassle sometimes. Keep these five steps in mind to make your shopping experience a little easier:

  1. Age appropriate – Look at the manufacturer’s suggested age grading on the products as a starting place. This labeling is based upon developmental milestones of children. In addition, toys are tested to meet the safety standards at different age levels.
  2. Open-ended playtime – Select toys that allow for this type of play since it encourages developing imaginations. Children learn about themselves and their environment through play in general; open-ended play lets children be creative and act out various scenarios as they express themselves.
  3. Don’t give into the hype! - What’s hot now may not be hot next week so look for a toy that will engage your child. A toy, regardless if it is THE hot toy or not, is a better toy if the child’s interest is there to go get it back out of the toy box again and again.
  4. Interests – Choose toys that suit the child’s interests. Does he or she like music? Maybe a toy piano or rhythm sticks would be ideal. Does he or she like games or activities? Then how about a river-crossing jungle adventure game or a picture book with puzzles and games inside.
  5. Classic play patterns – Based upon age and interest, you can’t go wrong with a classic toy such as blocks, puzzles, dolls, cars, etc. Just remember the toys you played with when you were a kid and try to find a modern-day replacement.

Most importantly, if you still have doubts, then don’t be afraid to ask for help! When shopping at a local toy store, feel free to ask a salesperson for his or her recommendations. Even if you don’t choose the suggested product, you can discover what other children that age are enjoying and purchasing.

Remember, it’s all about LEARNING and FUN!

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