Children are learning even before they are born. Every event or experience they have is educational which is why it is important for them to have access to play facilities and toys that will make a positive contribution to their ongoing learning.
Play activities contribute towards a child's educational development in many ways including:
- Psycho-motor skills development: hand to eye coordination, dexterity
- Language development
- Communication skills
- Cognitive skills: (concentration, perception, memory and logical thinking)
- Creative thinking and problem solving
- Personality development
Today's toy shops are full of the latest whizzy electronic toys. Many are advertised as being educational but are really little more than attention grabbing noise making devices. Tests have shown that humans are predisposed to pay attention to rapidly changing events and loud or unusual sounds. Many modern toys exploit these predispositions with loud, noise-making flashing toys that will grab the attention of any youngster. While toys like theses may be amusing many actually provide limited educational value.
The right educational toys will be stimulating and fun to play with rather than simply another form of entertainment. And the right educational toy for a baby is obviously a lot different to the educational toy that will stimulate a 10 year old.
Babies and Infants
Babies and infants need things to look at, to touch, to shake, to taste, to rattle and to roll. Varied colours, varied textures, varied sounds and varied behaviours will all provide immense enjoyment and stimulation to an infant and they will be learning whilst having fun.
Toddlers in the 1 to 2 year age range are getting to grips with language and associations with the physical world. They like to stack things, build things up and then knock them down again. They will often find the packaging more interesting than the item that was packed!
The baby walker is a well known traditional toy that is loved by toddlers, helping them to take their first wobbly steps. Equipped with a cargo of assorted bricks that allow the child to stack and build and knock down while encouraging their creativity.
As they grow toddlers begin to copy and emulate the adults and older children around them. They will enjoy dressing up, role play and imaginative fantasy games that will see them adopting personas such as a fireman, postman, nurse or doctor. They will also derive enjoyment from problem solving, puzzle games, building kits and creative craft work.
The toy castle is another traditional toy that many of us will remember from our own childhoods. Building the castle encourages all sorts of skills development including manual dexterity, language skills and creativity as the child imagines their castle occupied by knights and princesses, fighting off dragons and invaders.
From a very early age children will enjoy creating things by drawing, painting, gluing and colouring. As they grow their drive to create becomes ever more sophisticated. They will want to have a go at all sorts of creative play, from painting pictures to pottery. Luckily there are plenty of creativity toys from simple sets of crayons and colouring books to bead jewellery and flower gardens.
Don't be deceived by the hype and advertising of modern, supposedly educational toys. Many have limited educational value and are actually entertainment devices that provide little stimulation or opportunities for learning. There are many traditional toys that make ideal gifts and will provide a valuable educational experience for a growing child.
By Tony S Gee
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