Learning should be fun: that’s the reason why many toys are advertised as educational. Kids learn best when they are involved in their learning, when they are actively participating, doing something or trying something new.
So, how do you know which toys will be both fun and educational? The first thing to consider is the child you’re buying the toy for: how old is the child? What is his or her skill level? You wouldn’t want to buy a science kit for an infant. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to buy an alphabet puzzle for a gifted fourth grader.
Once you have the most basic idea of the child in mind, there are five key points to consider when purchasing children’s toys.
- Is the toy safe? Does a toy for a small child have small pieces that make it a choking hazard? Are the paints used for a craft project non-toxic? Are any chemicals used in a science kit that might be dangerous? The big thing to consider when buying any child’s toy is that it is safe for the child.
- Is the toy fun and appealing? Is the toy colorful and attention getting? Will the child want to play with it? If you are unsure, ask for recommendations or read reviews from others who have bought the toy. Regardless of how much you think the child could learn from the toy, if it’s not something that he or she will want to play with, it would be better to purchase something else.
- What is the overall quality of the product? Is it going to last? Are you getting what you pay for? A toy that breaks the first time it is played with isn’t much fun. An educational toy that makes lofty promises but doesn’t fulfill any of them is not worth a higher price.
- Does the toy encourage open-ended imaginative play? Is the toy geared towards a specific educational purpose? High quality educational children’s toys encourage imagination. Puzzles and games often help to build critical thinking skills by developing a child’s ability to reason and to develop strategies. Project-based toys help kids to learn to follow directions and to develop fine-motor skills.
- Are there any lessons involved that you would not want the child to learn? Is the toy violent? Does it contribute to racism? Is it sexist? While most toy manufacturers develop products that contain only positive messages, there are some toys that may seem to deliver inappropriate messages.
By taking these questions into consideration, you will have taken the first steps towards buying an appropriate educational toy.
While buying a child’s educational toy may seem complicated, there are some toys that are suggested for different age groups to give you an idea of where to begin. For pre-school aged children, consider activity mats, musical instruments, matching and memory games, and simple puzzles.
Because children learn quickly, it’s important to evaluate when they have outgrown a toy so that another can be introduced. As kids grow up and begin school, look for toys that will encourage their interest in the areas where they struggle – word games for kids who need to improve their vocabulary, math games for kids who are challenged by numbers.
Of course, educational does not always mean that a toy has to have a classroom focus. Team sports encourage kids to be active, but they also help to improve hand-eye coordination and teach the value of working together to achieve a common goal.
So, which educational toy is most beneficial? The answer is any toy that makes learning fun for the child who plays with it. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of educational toys on the market, and you’re bound to find one that’s great for the child in your life.
Elly, Educational Toys Planet