Guide to educational baby toys
The best educational toys don't say "educational" on them. In fact, they don't need to have fancy labels or expensive price tags at all. The best educational toys for children's development are unstructured toys, meaning toys that don't only have one "right" way to play with them and that promote creative discovery.
Child development experts study children's growth by looking at several "domains" of development. We want to see children grow socially and emotionally, develop language and communication skills and use analytic thinking domains, including the abilities to sort, count and solve problems.
Development also happens along a continuum, and no two children progress along the continuum of development at the same time. This is why instead of relying on prepackaged "educational toy" products, the best child care and child development programs are stocked with toys that are unstructured, engaging in many ways and able to grow along with each child. Children will use them in different ways as they grow.
What are the advantages of open creativity toys?
Unstructured toys have several advantages:
- They are diverse in playability.
- They are simple in design.
- They encourage creativity.
- They build confidence as children explore and play.
- They enhance learning through play.
- They are usually much less expensive than other toys.
- They have less tricky marketing and lead to fewer disappointments.
- They break less often.
- They are made of higher-quality materials.
- They don't use batteries!
What do you need to stock your toy box with unstructured toys?
Here are a few items experts suggest you have on hand:
- Large blocks
- Transportation toys
- Climbing equipment
- Tricycles, wagons, Big Wheels and so forth
- Puzzles - first wooden, then paper and 3-dimensional puzzles
- Art supplies (finger and water paints, brushes, markers, crayons, scissors, etc.)
- Beads for stringing
- Construction materials (small blocks, LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, etc.)
- Books and childrens magazines
- Writing materials (notepads, individual chalkboard, pens, pencils, etc.)
- Act-out props (stuffed toys, puppets, small figures, etc.)
- Materials for water play (buckets, squirt guns, sieves, etc.)
- Objects from nature (leaves, a bird's nest, feathers, a terrarium, etc.)
- Housekeeping equipment and props (child-sized broom, dishware, table and chair, etc.)
- Props for dramatic play (hats, scarves, child stethoscope, eyeglasses without lenses, etc.)
Really, it doesn't take much to ensure that your child has the advantages of exploring, mastering and reinventing unstructured toys. Even a shoebox will do at times! Just see the world through your child's eyes - as a place full of adventure and creativity - and the learning will happen through joyous play and discovery.