Technology and innovation bring about digital convenience. Educational apps for kids have boomed in the past years, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. Pause for a second and ask yourself, what is the cost of this convenience? Is your child gaining more from playing from a smartphone or tablet than playing with the good old toys? If those questions have made you think twice, then there is no better time to learn and understand educational toys for kids more than now!
The benefits of educational toys for kids
There are plenty of reasons why kids should ditch digital games and focus their attention on educational toys for kids instead. There have been plenty of studies linking non-digital games to a child’s cognitive development. Not only that, educational toys can help develop different skills in children, such as problem-solving skills, cause and effect and conflict resolution. Kids will learn how to share and socialise through playing these learning toys.
Remember, a child’s mind is expanding, and that means several windows of opportunities you can tap into. Even kids younger than one year will benefit from playing with learning toys as long as they’re age-appropriate. So, how exactly can educational toys benefit your child?
1. Inspires Exploration Through Curiosity
Children are naturally curious, even during infancy. Babies like to touch and feel things as this is a way to understand the things around them. It is important to support the curiosity of children as this will encourage them to explore and find the answers they seek. Educational toys for kids play an important role here because these toys give the kids guided exploration through fun play. A good example of baby learning toys is activity mats. The different items there will really spark the curiosity of an infant and will encourage the child to learn more.
2. Develops the Senses
During infancy, the senses of babies are still forming. This is why kids learning toys are incredibly helpful in developing those senses through seeing, hearing and touching. For instance, bright-coloured toys that are visually appealing can already develop a child’s sense of sight. Even toys that produce noise will help them develop their sense of hearing.
The fact is, when a child is more exposed to things that can stimulate his/her senses, the better they will understand their senses as well. At the same time, the child is also able to channel his/her own unique personality through either liking or disliking a certain noise, smell or texture. As a result, the child is able to communicate his/her feelings more.
3. Boosts Cognitive Development
Learning through play is the perfect combination of mental growth. Educational toys are designed to pique a child’s interest while offering different ways to improve the child’s attention span, gross and fine motor skills, focus, ability to memorise, comprehension, hand-eye coordination and many more. When a child is exposed to educational toys at an early age, he/she will likely grow up smarter. Best of all, since these learning toys bring about fun learning, a child will more likely retain the information he/she has learned.
4. Improves problem-solving skills
While educational toys for babies are more about tapping into the senses, educational toys for toddlers are more focused on challenges. By the age of one, a child is now more capable of solving problems or at least, trying to solve problems. Educational toys for this age group are designed to challenge a child’s mind. These toys encourage them to think beyond the problem and find a solution. Even toys as simple as educational puzzles or matching games will really challenge children.
The best thing about improving their problem-solving skills early on is they learn how to solve problems by themselves. They don’t become easily frustrated or quit when a challenge presents itself. Instead, these kids are able to think critically and take the challenge head-on until they find a way to solve the problem.
5. Encourages Socialisation
One of the more enjoyable features of educational toys for kids is it can be played with other people—adults and children alike. Learning how to socialise is an important part of early development. Through playing with other kids, a child will understand to share with others and understand social cues better, such as laughing, anger or crying. A child will learn what it means to compromise, give way and resolve conflicts. This makes the child more adapted to different social situations.
Additionally, when a child develops the habit of playing with others, he/she can better understand that learning doesn’t have to be done alone; he/she can actually learn while playing with other people.
6. Stabilises Emotions
The ability of a child to socialise does wonders for his/her own emotions. When a child is well-adapted to different social situations, he/she becomes more confident in facing and dealing with other people. At the same time, when a child can solve a problem in his/her own way, this gives them a confidence boost, too. Building self-esteem in young children is always a good thing.
7. Improves Attention Span
When it comes to teaching young kids, one of the most common issues is attention span. The younger they are, the less time they stay interested. This is one of the reasons why playing with tablets and smartphones has become the go-to solution. Since these games are highly entertaining, parents rely on them to temporarily babysit their children, with the hope of teaching their children a thing or two. However, it’s all just counterproductive.
Sure, a child can spend hours playing a digital game. But that improved attention span will not reflect on how that child will study his/her lessons. The opposite might even happen when the child would be impatient in completing his/her tasks simply because the child wants to play the digital game already.
This is why educational toys, nowadays, are designed to be more challenging for children. These toys don’t have to be over-the-top or techy to entertain a child; the challenge is the attention grabber instead. A child who knows that he/she has to solve a problem will spend hours on a toy unknowingly, which equates to hours of healthy learning and mental stimulation, too.
What are the best educational toys for kids per age group?
While every child has access to the benefits of playing with learning toys, it is still imperative for parents to provide their child with the right or age-appropriate toy. This is because the right toy will develop, stimulate or enhance the proper skill set of a child in a specific age group. Here’s a more detailed guide below:
Age: 1-12 Months
- For this age group, the child will start out with sensory play to stimulate the developing senses. The child can play with infant play gyms or activity mats.
- The next focus will be learning toys that improve hand-eye coordination. These are usually portable toys with flashing lights and sounds. This helps the child realise that if he/she presses a button, he/she can expect to use the sense of sight and hearing.
- When the child becomes more active, parents can introduce problem-solving toys already. At the same time, these toys will also introduce the concept of cause-and-effect. The best toys here are building blocks or stackers. A child learns through trial-and-error, but of course, parents should provide guidance.
- Introducing alphabets, numbers, shapes and colours in this age group is also a good idea. Children can start identifying what these elements look like through cards and puzzles. They can also learn the shapes through playing with wooden letter, number and shape blocks that come in different colours.
Age: 12-24 Months
- By one year of age, a child becomes more physically active. As he/she starts learning how to walk, the best educational games for him/her are balance toys that teach coordination. Parents can offer toys like push cars and stride/ride toys. One tip for parents is to create detours and path challenges when the child is better at manoeuvring the ride-on toys. This stimulates the child’s problem-solving skills and ability to follow the right direction.
- This is also the best time to improve their knowledge of counting. As they start learning to walk, count their steps. The more they hear about the counting & math toys process, the more they will understand what it’s for.
- Themed educational toys for kids are also great for this age group. An example would be a family-themed playset where a child can be more familiar with the members of the family, areas of the house and things in the house. Animal-themed toys are also excellent for kids to be more familiar with animal names and sounds. Themed-books also count!
Age: 24 Months+
- Your child is now more physically and mentally active, which makes it the best time to present more challenging learning toys. Ditch the ride-on car and introduce a tricycle for toddlers. Introducing sports is also a great idea. Mini bowling, pool, basketball and golf play sets are always good things to play with.
- Playing with clay is another awesome idea. This activity helps in strengthening the fine motor skills in young children and really exercise their creativity.
- Giving a child an easel will also help expand their fine motor skills and creativity. Encourage them to write, draw and paint to create art.
- Magnetic building sets help improve problem-solving skills as well as enhance creativity, too. These are more complex than building blocks, so the child is encouraged to be more analytical.
- Of course, reading books should never be out of the picture because these books improve a child’s comprehension and vocabulary.
- Continue working on reading and counting through more challenging educational toys. With Math, Montessori materials are something parents can rely on to teach mathematical concepts to young kids.
What to look for in the best educational toys for kids?
More and more toy makers are claiming that their toys are “educational,” but parents can never be too sure. It is important for parents to be able to discern a high-quality learning toy, especially when buying online. To help parents out, here are some of the most important qualities to look for in an educational toy:
Makes a Child Think
The goal of educational toys is education or learning. These toys should promote learning in more ways than one. The toy should encourage a child to think critically, analyse, explore and solve problems. If you notice that an educational toy only offers fun, it’s not the real deal.
Educational toys are designed to be challenging. The challenges promote mental stimulation, which is why kids can spend hours on end trying to overcome different challenges. Further, the toy presents the right challenges as not to overwhelm or frustrate a child.
Promotes Active Play
Will your child be able to do plenty of things with this toy? A true-blue educational toy will keep the interest of a child for hours. A toy that loses its appeal within just 30 minutes of playing is not a real learning toy.
Well-Made and Safe
One of the reasons why Montessori education materials are very popular is because they’re made of wood, which means they’re sturdy and will last years. The wooden toys are also well-made, with smooth edges, showing that a toymaker did put extra thought on how the toys are made.
Can Be Played with Others
Remember, educational toys should encourage children to be more social. Hence, learning toys are not meant to be played alone. If the toy looks like it’s only for solo-play, skip it. Educational toys are designed to be well-rounded.
There’s really no reason to rely or depend on digital games as sources for early child development. Bear in mind that a young child’s brain is like a sponge. This is the peak time for a child to learn everything you can teach him/her. Take this opportunity to use the right children educational toys. These toys not only offer mental stimulation, but your child will also become more emotionally stable and socially adept.