Anyone who has taken care of a child for even a few short hours understands the benefit of having a few of the child’s favorite toys close at hand – both for the child and the caretaker. But what many adults overlook is the quality of the toy given to the child. That is, what, over and above sheer entertainment value, does the toy offer the child? To answer this question in the affirmative, commercial toymakers have long been blurring the line between playtime and learning time with educational toys: toys that not only keep children occupied, but engage their brains at the same time.
Educational Toys are most commonly seen in the nursery. Save dolls, blankets, and other comfort items, almost all toys given to babies are at least partially educational. The classic rollercoaster is one such example. This toy challenges the child to make special explorations while keeping him/her entertained with the sights of bright colors and the sounds of the blocks and moving parts. Another classic example of an educational toy meant for babies to younger toddlers is the primary shape block set. This pseudo-puzzle tests the ability of the child to recognize shapes both in 3-D and negative space. If the child is successful, he/she is rewarded by the satisfaction of having the block pass through the similarly-shaped hole.
As children grow however, it becomes necessary to employ more complex educational toys to not only keep the child engaged, but to stimulate new and developing parts of his/her brain. Toys that incorporate the fun of moving objects with the fun of common children’s games are produced for children of this age. Two examples of such toys include wall panel versions of memory and tic-tac-toe. In addition to the base educational and entertainment value of these toys, they also offer the benefit of being commonly recognizable by the child. That is, many of the toys designed for children of this age are based on prevalent themes – ones that will be recognized by the child on a regular basis, and ones that will reinforce the lessons afforded by them.
There comes a time in child development when it becomes increasing important for the child to interact with others. Social interactions, after all, are imperative in raising a well-rounded child. To more than one child on in an educational way, several toys have been created. Many of them employ the same activities and games used in toys designed for just one child allowing the toddlers build bridges to interaction with other kids. The Circle of Fun does this by presenting toys with which each child will be familiar, such as the rollercoaster, on a circular table. This allows children the opportunity to entertain themselves while in the company of others. Still others allow kids to explore new territory with their new-found friends. A sand play table brings the camaraderie of the outdoor sandbox indoors in a mess-free educational toy.
No matter the age of your child, it’s important for him/her to have fun. As good parents we want our children to be happy. We also know it’s our job to keep their brains stimulated so they can grow to become the successful adults we want them to be. Thankfully, there are educational toys to help us ensure both!