Your children love to have fun and so do you. During play, there is a critical activity taking place – the process of learning. Children learn best at play and selecting the best educational toys for your child will depend on his or her personal interest. Anything that can engage your child while teaching new skills is an educational toy. The concept of an educational toy does not simply mean schematic number games or letter rearrangement activities. These toys encourage the expansion of the necessary skills of language, coordination, and motor abilities. Educational toys are great teachers when provided to the appropriate age group. Researchers have discovered that preschoolers who watch more television that their peers do worse in school and are not as well socialized when they enter kindergarten. Therefore, it is crucial for us, as parents, to urge educational play and avoid the “television babysitter.”
Six Essential Elements of Developmental Play
As a caring involved parent, it is important to understand your child’s development. Experts have identified essential elements of developmental play that can be promoted through the use of age-appropriate educational toys.
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 pincer 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 as puzzles, Legos, play dough, keys and 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 improve his or her capacity for mental activities such as evaluating, reasoning, evaluating, 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 Clue or Jungle Smart, 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 drums, whistles, xylophones, and tambourines.
Social and Emotional Development: Skills of this kind include the improvement of how 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 toy dinosaurs.
The Top Ten Educational Toys
Super Marble Works: It is from Discovery Toys and is made up of brightly colored ramps and shoots, funnels, and other obstacles. This toy allows your child to be the chief architect and learn about gravity, cause and effect, and trouble shooting. This toy is best for children 5 years old and up since some of the parts can be difficult for little hands to put together.
Wonderful Wooden Blocks: Unit blocks are often a staple of a quality pre-school. The only limit on wooden blocks is a child’s imagination. Building blocks allow kids to make their ideas into reality, stimulate imagination and exercise small motor skills.
Leap Frog Fridge Phonics: This ingenious product from Leap Frog brings learning phonics to the kitchen. Magnetic letters and letter reader magnetically attach to your fridge and allow your kids to put a letter into the reader to hear its name, its sound, and a little song. This lets your child learn ABCs in a fun way.
Hammer Away: This is another great Discovery Toy. It is a ball pounder, shaped like a ship, and has a flag made in the bright primary colors. Kids can practice and develop hand eye coordination by hammering balls until they fall through the holes. The ball then makes its way down a ramp and ends up at the base on the bottom, where the child can take the ball and place it back on the hole.
Puzzles: Puzzles are a great way for kids to develop their hand-eye coordination, as well as their cognitive thinking skills. There are many varieties and designs available by various companies. Your child can start with peg puzzles and move on to jig-saw types.
Shape Sorter: This toy is by Anatex and combines the fun of “bead rollercoasters” with the challenge of a shape sorter. Toddlers can pick up the brightly colored shapes and try to fit them in the wooden cube, allowing for the development of their logical thinking and motor skills.
Busy Bugs Learning Set: This toy from Discovery Toys comes with a set of colorful cards and 26 small, cute bugs. It is great for a multitude of early math skills including sorting, sequencing, matching and counting. It allows your child to match up bugs on the sturdy cards and organize them in various different ways: by color, by species, by number of legs. Each set of Busy Bugs comes with a list of additional learning activities to play with your child.
Surprise Inside Elephant: This soft toy features lots of fun shapes that fit snugly inside a plush elephant. Each shape features a different texture and sound to excite your baby or toddler. Using descriptive words to talk about things around your child, it will help your child develop vocabulary of words they understand.
Soda Pop Science Kit: This kit by Scientific Explorer will appeal to most children, even if they tend to shy away from science. It allows kids to create their own soda flavors and colors and they can experiment with their soda’s fizziness.
Cranium Balloon Lagoon: This game allows kids to practice their social skills and is a lot of fun too. The game set includes a four-in-one carnival game that allows your child to solve puzzles with counting, spelling, and matching.
Learn, Baby, Learn!
One of the main reasons for a parent to select educational toys is the fact that they create a positive learning experience. However, educational toys and games have changed with time. As technology improves, the product quality undergoes considerable change, as well. The Internet and video technology has infiltrated society and it makes sense to introduce your child to computers. Smart parents should evaluate a toy for its learning potential and know not to use it as a babysitter. Educational toys are fabulous but the best learning for young children involves real-life experiences.
Toys that Stimulate Learning Skills
Smart Talk Electronic Learning Aid – This toy encourages vocabulary development and how many words a child understands. Many parents like it for long car rides.
Breakfast Lunch Dinner Pretend Food Set – Toddlers love to imitate their parents or loved ones by making food for their family. This of ways that play food encourages child development.
Old MacDonald Story Sack Activity Book – If your child likes books, this is a great toy to engage your child, while it teaches receptive learning skills.
Toys that Stimulate Activity and Learning of Motor Skills
Jump N Jam Talking Floor Mat – Interactive electronic mat jump-starts active learning because children can move on it. This mat teaches children about colors, animal sounds, and while strengthening gross motor skills and increasing reasoning abilities.
WiiSports – Video games are often frowned on by child psychologists. This toy, however, gets your child up off the couch and actually teaches athletic skills.
Toys that Stimulate Learning of Attention and Focus
Lego Tech Machines Construction Kit – This is a fun kit that is great for boys and girls alike. It is a fun way to help with focus and attention skills.
Lego Town Developers Set – Your child can become a city planner with an assortment of basic bricks, roof pieces, and windows. His attention will improve with this toy.
Digital Teaching Cash Register Toy – This toy is an impressive companion to the play food seen on this site. Play cash registers boost children to learn early money skills and some simple math skills, as well. Not only does this help with focus, this is great for creative play and language skills, also.
Toys that Stimulate Learning of Cognitive Skills
EduBlocks Giant Soft Interlocking Stackable Blocks – Blocks have been found to encourage cognitive skills as well as creativity. These blocks will help promote better motor skills while increasing cognition.
Language Game 4in1 Set – Game night can be great fun for the entire family! It’s a great way to bond with your kids and show them how much fun learning actually is. Children learn and model themselves after their parents, so encourage your child’s love of games and learning through these games.
Geo Safari Talking Globe – This is a wonderful interactive geography quiz game that has lights and sound effects to help improve cognition. It is rewarding and exciting for your child.
Exceptional Phonics Bean Bag Game – If you love bean bags, chances are your kid does too! This is a wonderful toy and although it looks simple, there are so many ways to play with these. This toy stimulates cognitive skills and is fun too.