Children spend the majority of their time playing. Most everything learned during the early childhood years is accomplished through play so the toys available to a child are very important. There are a wide variety of toys available today that are labeled educational, but anything a child plays with that enhances their natural growth and development in a positive way can be an educational toy.
Electronic and computerized toys are typically what comes to mind when you think of educational toys. These toys can teach children numbers, letters, shapes, and even more advanced topics like dinosaurs or geography. Computer toys offer excellent educational benefits for school readiness skills, but they do very little to promote creative thinking or to enhance social and emotional development.
The best educational toys are those that invite children to explore a variety of ways to play with them. Simple props for dress up and pretend play allow children to create their own play scenarios. Boxes, tents, hats, and handbags promote creative thinking and enhance young imaginations. Children learn problem solving skills as well as social skills through dramatic play.
Toys like blocks or building sets are wonderful educational toys. Natural wooden building block sets help in the development of fine motor skills and stimulate creativity. Toys that allow a child to create whatever he imagines are very beneficial to healthy growth and development. Children can experiment with various shapes and sizes as they stack the blocks and learn which combinations stand and which fall over.
Art activities can be educational as well. Tearing paper or scribbling with crayons can not only be creatively stimulating to a toddler, but it strengthens small muscles that will soon be used for pencils and scissors. Markers, paper, and glue can quickly become a child’s masterpiece. Allow your child to direct his own art activities whenever possible. Children typically learn the most from self-directed play.
Jigsaw puzzles are one of the best toys for cognitive development. Board games teach a child to take turns and follow the rules while increasing language and counting skills. Children can eagerly explore new ideas and interests with scientific toys like microscopes. Word games enhance vocabulary as well as spelling skills.
The most tried and true educational toys are still books. Books create adventure and fantasy in a child’s life. Reading to your child and exploring books together can be the most beneficial tool in promoting education and literacy throughout life.
Children are very eager to learn during their early years. Their favorite toys will be things that are both fun and easy to use. Even ordinary household items like a spoon and a pot can become educational toys for little minds. Follow your child’s lead as you play together. Progress play with open ended questions that stimulate creative thinking in your child.
Not all toys provide educational benefits, but any item that invites a child to explore, create, or discover can be considered educational. Always choose toys that are appropriate for your child’s developmental level and try to provide toys that cater to his specific interests.