What are Some Good Educational Toys?
Everyone wants their children to excel at problem solving, creativity, sharing, and reading. Educational toys are a great opportunity to combine play, social interaction, practice, and new knowledge. You might picture flashcards full of useless factoids as boring examples, but good educational toys really are fun, entertaining, and adapt to your child's age and interests.
Toys that reinforce the connections children already make between colors, shapes, words, and pictures will strengthen their understanding of building, reading, following directions, specializing in tasks, and motor coordination. The toys that you remember spending hours with as a child are your best bet, including puzzles, building blocks, clay, interlocking logs or other plastic pieces, coloring books, and puppets. You're striving for toys that appeal to different age groups and don't strictly work in one way, not necessarily ways to make him or her learn rote knowledge.
As a child's brain develops, he or she is always making associations between shape, size, and color. Especially pre-verbal children need to learn things we all take for granted: round things roll away, square things stay still, hidden things can be uncovered, and small things can fit inside larger ones. For example, building blocks whose colors correspond to specific shapes, such as blue cylinders and red triangles, help toddlers grasp objects, make sophisticated shapes out of simple ones, and learn balance and rigidity. Encourage your child to arrange square blocks in order from smallest to largest or in the rainbow from red to purple.
Older toddlers will have finer motor coordination and a more advanced imagination. Smaller, complicated pieces, such as wooden logs, plastic snowflakes, tubes and gears, or foam shapes will advance their construction abilities. They'll probably make up stories to go along with their creations, such as a castle getting attacked, a train coming into town, or a family going to the zoo.
Once school-aged, children will benefit from interactive toys that complement their new skills at alphabet recognition, writing, drawing, and reading. Coloring books combine information, such as plants and animals of Australia, with creative expression. Allow your child to color with markers, crayons, and poster paint on specially designed coloring books so they'll learn about realistic versus fantastic color schemes, how colors mix, shape recognition, and connecting ordered pictures to a narrative story.
Older children are still attracted to seemingly simple games, such as putting together a puzzle. Any kits that enable a completed project will give a creative child more confidence in his or her ability to create a permanent, finished product. Some kits let kids design and bead jewelry, make their own autobiography, or fashion pottery like a dog's water dish. They'll read and follow directions, tell their own stories, and create a gift for a beloved family member. Follow your intuition on what your child already finds fascinating to reward their natural curiosity.
@Drentel - I disagree with your low opinion of educational toys. Studies have shown that the toys a child plays with influence who he or she will become later in life.
Giving a child a toy stethoscope won't guarantee that he or she will grow up to be a doctor, but the toy will have some influence on the child. So I would much rather my children play with some of the fun educational toys instead of playing with a stick.
Too much time is spent talking about children's educational toys. Anything a toddler picks up is educational to him. Give him a stick and that's educational because he doesn't know what a stick is and he is learning from the experience.
A parent's main concern should be seeing to it that the toys are as safe as possible. Nothing is completely safe, but we all know there are some obvious things we should keep out of reach of kids. If they aren't going to injure themselves then let them at it and they will learn something.
My parents felt that all toys and 99 percent of all fun should be educational. Even beyond the toddler years and early childhood, they insisted our holiday gifts and birthday gifts have some educational value. I can remember trying to convince my father that the electronic game player I wanted was going to give me a better understanding of changing technology.
As I remember it, I never quite convinced him on that one, but in most cases I was able to show there was some educational value to most of the toys and games I wanted.
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