As a parent, your child’s development is probably at the forefront of your mind fairly regularly, but have you thought about ways in which you can encourage development without taking away their playtime? In this article we discuss what makes a toy educational, and why such toys are so important in the education of children.
So, what makes a toy educational? An educational toy is any toy which contributes to the learning and development of children. This can include cognitive development, emotional development, social development, and other developmental factors that may help children with their formal learning at school.
Read on to learn more about what makes an educational toy, and why they are so important for the learning and development of children.
What Makes an Educational Toy?
If you think that educational toys have to be maths, English, science, or language focused, you’re thinking too deeply about the concept of what is educational. What makes an educational toy is simply an element or factor of the toy that, in some way, contributes to the learning or development of children.
This educational factor doesn’t have to be formally educational, i.e. making a game out of learning the 4 times table; toys like Lego, arts and crafts, and puzzles, whilst still fun, can all be educational.
Educational toys should contribute to one or more of the following areas:
- Supporting formal learning
- Cognitive development
- Emotional development
- Social development
However, not all toys have to be educational. It’s also important that children have a good way to develop physically and exercise regularly. Make sure to incorporate a good level of physical activities and toys into their playtime alongside educational toys and other playtime activities.
Are All Toys Educational?
Not all toys are strictly educational, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in toys that aren’t educational. Most toys have value beyond being a fun playtime activity, and contribute, in some way, to the development of children. However, Psychology Today suggests that all toys can actually be educational, we just have to pay attention to what the toys are teaching, and get past the idea that ‘educational’ equals formal learning.
Why are Educational Toys Important?
Educational toys are important as they encourage the learning and development of children outside of formal learning environments. They are also important as the benefits gained from playing with educational toys help to develop the skills necessary for formal learning and further progression as children get older.
Benefits of Educational Toys
We’ve already mentioned that educational toys support cognitive, social, and emotional development, but what does this mean? We’ve listed a few benefits of educational toys below to help you understand just how important they are for the development of children.
- Develops problem solving skills
- Develops social skills as children learn to play with other children or, in the case of role-play and make-believe toys, children learn more about the world around them and how to interact with others in different social situations
- Improved concentration and focus
- Develops communication and language skills
- Encourages creativity, both in ideas and solutions, and in arts and crafts
- Some educational toys develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination
How to Choose Educational Toys
Whilst, as we have already determined, most toys can be educational in some regards, it would be a good idea to choose educational toys that align with your child’s interests, as children (especially younger children) need to be interested in a toy before they will choose to play with it. Without this interest, the toy will be wasted and your child will miss out on the potential benefits of playing with the toy.
Admittedly, finding educational toys that your child is interested in will likely be trial and error at first, but once you begin to learn what they respond to, you can choose educational toys that align with this.As your child gets older, ensure that the toys you purchase are age-appropriate as the benefits of playing with educational toys are tailored to the recommended age group.
It’s also important to make sure that you choose toys that encourage the development of different skills. Try not to choose toys that are all aimed at helping to develop cognitive skills, or all to develop social skills, for example. Choose a good mix of educational toys to give children a well-rounded informal education.
Also, make sure to include some toys that do support formal learning, such as maths and English, as at-home support in such subjects can be a great compliment to formal learning, and may encourage better understanding.
How to Make Educational Toys
Whilst there are plenty of great, inexpensive educational toys on the market, like those we stock here at The Early Teacher, you also have the option to make some DIY educational toys at home to lessen the expense and have some creative fun with your children.
Have an at-home, informal science lesson with your children by learning to make slime. Not only will this be super fun for your kids, but will teach them all about measurements, following instructions, and chemical reactions. Take a look at this recipe to get started with making slime.
When thinking about educational toys, don’t discount arts and crafts. Arts and crafts have a number of developmental benefits for children, as well as being a great, relatively inexpensive activity for rainy days. Check out our recent blog for more information about how arts and crafts can encourage development.
For more maths-focused fun, try using dried pasta as counters. Before getting into the maths elements, your kids can even have fun painting and decorating the pasta. This will help children to practise counting, basic addition and subtraction, and other simple maths. If you don’t have any pasta going spare, though, you can always use rocks from the garden for this DIY educational activity.
Where Can I Buy Educational Toys?
Educational toys are available at all good toy stockists, as well as here at The Early Teacher. We stock a wide range of educational toys, including STEM toys, puzzle toys, role-play toys, instruments, arts and crafts supplies, and more.
Take a look at our range of educational toys today to help your kids learn new skills, develop core skills and, generally, just have fun.