How to Choose the Best Educational Toys for Your Little One
As a parent, you are probably aware of how important playtime is for having a joyful, content toddler. But play isn’t just a source of fun – it’s also crucial for children’s development. It’s so important for building physical, social and mental skills that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes it as a right that every child should have. This means that even the toys your little one plays can have the power to shape its future development. Some toys do this better than others, and that’s why they’re also called educational toys.
Why Educational Toys Are Important
Children learn best through play, which is why educational toys are such an effective learning tool. The basic purpose of all these toys is to teach the child some important skill whether on a physical, emotional or even on an intellectual level. Educational toys, like for instance activity boxes, and building blocks can help children develop problem solving skills and grasp the basics of maths from an early age. The fact that they’re fun to play with makes the first contact the child has with complex concepts like geometry and maths a positive one, which can easily pave the way for a love of learning in the future.
However, before you go exploring a well-stocked educational toys store, it’s important to know how to recognise which toys can benefit your child the most.
Pick Age-Appropriate Toys
First of all, make sure to pick toys that are appropriate for his/her age and are more likely to entertain him/her instead of causing frustration. Until they turn one, babies are fascinated by everything going on around them, so they learn best through observation, sound and touch. This means that the best toys are the ones that have bright colours, different textures or make sounds, like for instance activity boards, floor gyms, rattles and squeaky toys.
Unlike babies, one-year-olds have more grasp on their motor abilities and begin to understand the cause and effect relationship. So, what are the best educational toys for 1 year olds? This is usually any toy that responds to children’s actions and makes use of their newly acquired motor skills. Some great options are simply, sturdy instruments like drums, puzzles with four or five pieces, shape sorters and similar toys.
Two-year-olds are rapidly learning language which means that they can respond to educational toys that require them to name a shape, number, colour or letter when pressing a button. Preschoolers and kindergarteners (ages 3-6) have longer attention spans and are typically more curious and imaginative. Considering this, modelling clay, picture books, drawing boards, more complex puzzles (15 – 20+ pieces) and even board games are all ideal for entertaining them and teaching them valuable skills at the same time.
Traditional vs High-Tech
Smartphones, laptops, tablets – today’s children have technology at their fingertips. Although when used right, these gadgets can be sources of valuable information, they do not exercise children’s motor skills. More screen time means more sedentary time, and this can be bad for children’s physical development. What’s more, excessive exposure to screens can prompt sleep difficulties and lead to attention problems.
In addition, high tech toys often do not teach skills children can use in the real world. Why not start helping children to make sense of everything going around them by picking toys that encourage them to explore things in the real world. For instance, toys such as sand buckets for toddlers or binoculars and flower leaf pressing journals for preschoolers invite children outdoors and can get them involved in nature, something that can be valuable for the rest of their lives. In addition, by exploring things in their surroundings, children will begin to ask a variety of How? and Why? Questions which you can follow up with books on that topic.
Opt for Toys That Promote Open-Ended Play
Toys that allow for open-ended play are great because they can be used in a variety of ways and an unlimited number of times. These are toys that the child can manipulate, like for instance, building blocks, modelling clay, arts and crafts and similar toys. Instead of observing, as the case is with battery cars, when the child plays with these toys, he/she will tend to make sounds and come up with different scenarios. This way, children can explore their imagination which can boost their creativity.
Consider Your Child’s Interests
Whether it’s clothes or toys, it’s always helpful to consider your child’s unique interests when making a pick. This way, the child will be more likely to play with the toy even if it presents a challenge that he/she yet needs to overcome. For instance, if your child shows an interest in a superhero or some cartoon character, picking out puzzles with the same theme can make him/her more excited about solving them. Books featuring your child’s favourite fairytales can promote an interest in learning how to read. An educational toys store can offer so many versions of popular toy that no matter how specific your child’s interests are, you will certainly find something that can appeal to them