Nearly any toy could be educational if it engages a child’s imagination. At first glance, even a ball of dough could technically be an educational toy. So what makes a toy truly “educational”?
Learning Toys and Child Development
Educational toys should enhance some aspect of the child’s development including these areas: intellectual development, physical development, social development, and emotional development.
Sometimes the parent or caregiver will be required for a certain amount of help in guiding the play and promoting the interaction, especially when first playing with the toy or when two players are required. So when you are searching for an educational toy, the first question to ask is what aspect of development do I want to promote today?
Deciphering Age Levels for Learning Toys
These learning toys are often divided by age grouping, such as “3 and up” or “8+” so be sure to find the one in the appropriate age range. Skill level is also an important factor, and to determine this there is need for familiarity with the child.
Some 4 year olds can handle puzzles marked “5+” others need to stick with the “3+” for a while longer. Be sure to encourage the child to keep trying and be aware that all children develop at different rates – these classifications are guidelines only. Remember, if it isn’t fun and engaging for the child it won’t teach anything.
There are many types of learning toys and games. From building blocks to LeapFrog games, the types are as varied as the children that play. Here is our expert breakdown:
Types of Educational Toys
Manipulative toys to develop hand-eye coordination and spacial relationships. These alone are said to increase scores on intelligence tests, but children also love them as much as parents. Included in the manipulatives are building blocks, puzzles, construction sets and clay. Many of the “classic toys” fit in this category.
- Dress up is wonderful for girls and boys, an assortment of basic props requires the child to use imagination to turn the scarf into a ball gown, cape or baby blanket. Playing dress-up can send children to fantasy lands, and it can be an important tool when working through a troubling time at school or home.
- Board games are available for all ages and continue to educate even into adulthood. The ones for early players focus on taking turns and sharing. Later they incorporate colors, letters, matching, and counting.
- Card games are versatile since no board is required and these have become more popular lately with the introduction of games like Mensa Awarded Apples to Apples. This game teaches vocabulary and social development while creating a fun atmosphere for learning. Other card games use colors and numbers as the basis and expand beyond that depending on skill level.
Musical instruments are always a good choice. As gifts for nieces and nephews they are great because the noise is out of the house, but even as a parent the screeching could be music to the ears when the educational benefits are considered. Music is shown to increase understanding related to math, and the benefits increase the earlier the child is introduced to music and rhythm games.
- Electronics invade most areas of the daily life, so it is not surprising to see just how many educational toys are electronic now. Most of these toys are single-purpose, sometimes losing the child’s interest once the skills presented have been mastered. Some come with interchangeable learning pages that increase difficulty and skill and essentially grow with the child. Libraries may offer booster or upgrade pages for these popular systems and video games as well.
- Books for all ages include soft infant books, board books, picture books, alphabet books, and more. Many even have reading levels listed on the cover for beginning readers. Libraries are a great place to find new titles. Most public libraries have extensive children’s events as well, such as storytelling hours and interactive reading groups. These workshops and events are invaluable to child development, and most are free.
- Einstein Toys are a popular category of educational toys for all age groups. These toys were created by researching children’s learning styles and the best way to engage imaginations.
When it comes down to it, almost all toys are educational because they help develop concentration, problem-solving, and imagination. However, we believe that knowing the most popular educational toys available is important for parents and caregivers to make informed choices about their children’s development.