Research shows that learning through play is an important part of a child’s development. Though ensuring your child has enough play time is a great benefit to families to allow their children to release some extra energy, a child begins to find out who they are through play, even during infancy. Even early in development, a child’s mind is expanding just by looking at their environment and taking in their surroundings.
The use of educational toys can help children learn many different skills they will need in their life such as:
- Problem solving and learning cause and effect
- Learning how to play with others through compromise, conflict resolution and sharing
- Development of fine and gross motor skills
- Nurturing their creativity and imagination
- Discovering their independence and positive self-esteem
Children can start benefiting from educational toys as early as one month old. Here are some great ideas for educational toys based on age range and an explanation of their benefits.
1-12 months old: At an early age, sensory play helps stimulate your child’s senses. Mobiles, soothers and infant play gyms are great first toys for children as they focus on sensory play through sound, sight and touch. As your child continues to grow and develops hand-eye coordination, families can begin introducing toys that encourage more interaction such as portable toys which will continue to inspire visual and hearing senses with flashing lights and different sounds.
As your child becomes more active, we suggest introducing problem solving toys such as stackers or blocks. These toys will help children work through conflicts and become familiar with cause and effect such as “If I do this than that will happen”. They will also build up their confidence once they’ve been able to figure out how a toy works after trial and error and guidance. Other great toys to introduce would be ones that promote movement such as crawl-around learning centers or light up dance mats. These types of toys get children excited and wanting to move around through the use of lights and sounds.
12-24 months old: As your child reaches the one-year mark or older, they will soon become very mobile. Push cars, stride and ride toys and walkers are great to teach balance and coordination and will increase your child’s curiosity with their new found mobility. As your child begins to learn to walk, you can also incorporate learning numbers by counting their steps which will help them become more familiar with the terms and meaning even if they do not quite understand at this age.
Themed playsets are great educational toys to introduce between the ages of 12-18 months because they will help develop your child’s recognition skills. For example, if you have a theme playset that involves animals, practice what sound each animal makes. This will also help with language development by reinforcing the names of colors and shapes. Ride-on toys continue to spark creativity and imagination but also will help refine their coordination skills. When they are using their ride-on toys, set up detours and paths that pushes them to solve problems and follow directions. You can also role play with them by telling them they are going to visit a family member or going on a field trip.
2+ years: As your children become a bit older and more active, you can also introduce toys that promote more physical play such as tricycles or basketball hoops. When showing them how to use these toys, always make sure they are aware of safety concerns such as wearing a helmet and incorporate in the process of using the toy so they know that if they ride their tricycle, they must have their helmet on as well.
This is also a great age to introduce toys that incorporate cognitive skill building. Kinetic sand is a great sensory activity that helps children practice writing by forming shapes or letters in the sand. They can practice drawing or writing their names. Introducing your child to an easel can help develop their small motor control by allowing them to practice how to hold chalk, a paint brush, etc. An easel will also promote creativity by letting your child use their imagination to create beautiful art.
“See and Say” games and books will help your child to develop name recognition and emergent literacy skills. These types of toys will show your child a visual version of what they are hearing and vice versa. For example, the repetition of the toy will allow your child to begin to associate a picture of a dog with the sound a dog makes. Reading books that have color pictures and a few words on each page with your child will begin to familiarize them with how words they hear look on the pages.
More complex building sets such as those that are magnetic are a great way to promote creativity and problem solving, whether it’s trying to build the same structure that’s pictured on the box or creating their own masterpiece. If the set comes with differently colored blocks, you can also practice counting and sorting each color.
Counting toys are also great for helping your child continue to learn about numbers. These toys can range from simple stacking sets to indoor bowling sets. Toys that encourage children to play with others also help them to build social skills.
Incorporating play in your child’s day can be both fun and beneficial to their growth. What toys do your children love that help promote learning and growth?