As parents we want to future-proof our kids, making sure they know how to work a smart phone, tablet and laptop.
Take me for example. I’m always looking for educational apps that I can download and for my kids rather than having to buy the ‘must-have’ gizmo this week, which becomes the ‘lamest’ a week later.
This was working for a while until I received a rather odd email from a work associate. Our relationship was a professional one and I was under the impression it was a good one. And then I got the email, which went along the lines of “…I think it better we end things now before it goes any further. Thank you for all your hard work and I wish you…”.
I couldn’t understand what had happened, until I read a whatsapp message that had been sent to him, from my daughter, while she was ‘learning’. The message read that she missed him and would love a sleepover! This was mistakenly sent to Tony, my work associate and not Toni’s mom, Emma’s bestie at school.
Since then I have made it my mission to find my children the best educational toys available, that don’t need to be downloaded.
All Toys are Educational
In my search I realized that any playtime for kids is learning time, so most toys are actually educational. The key is to find age-appropriate ones that will keep your child interested, and more importantly, learning.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking an ‘educational’ toy only applies to technological gadgets that cost a small fortune. Even coding can be learned with a board game. The best thing you can do is give your child educational opportunities that are fun and turn playtime into learning time.
Buying Guide to Help You Choose Educational Toys
Toys cost money, some a lot more than others. Choose a toy that has multiple uses and can grow with your child, like building blocks. They help with hand-eye coordination,and teach cause and effect. As they get older and build more intricate structures they learn about spatial relationships, reasoning, and creativity.
Any toy should be easy to operate or play with otherwise they’ll lose interest and give up. Too many shapes, a peg that’s too hard to out in or pull out will end in frustration rather than a fun learning experience.
If a toy isn’t age appropriate it’s not going to serve its purpose. Kids are challenged when they’re learning something new but if it’s too difficult (or too easy) they’re going to lose interest. This is where buying toys that have multiple uses and grow with the child are a great choice.
It’s important for a toy to be fun but it’s even better if it has a purpose. Know what the purpose is before you buy.
If you or your friends have toddlers you’ll often hear them joke about the expensive toy they bought for a birthday or Christmas and the box it came in was more of a hit. They’re not kidding.
Let’s face it, as a toddler everything’s a learning experience so at this age a key factor when choosing a toy is that it’s safe, without small parts that can be swallowed.
Bright colors, toys that make a noise and anything that’s big enough that they can handle easily. For little children around this age group, they’re doing things to develop their gross and fine motor skills.
You can start introducing your children to numbers and letters, as well as the wonderful world of science. We’re not talking atoms and molecules but more along the lines of cameras, magnets, binoculars and ant farms. In a world where we’re running out of natural resources raising eco-warriors isn’t a bad idea.
Children around this age also like imaginative play, so a dress-up corner is great, as well as puppets, playhouses or time on the play equipment.
There’s no getting around it, this can be a tricky age. Children aged between 6 and 12 need more complex toys that reinforce writing, reading, and arithmetic but we also don’t want them to get bored. If they’re on the laptop or tablet you need to monitor the sites and keep track of the games they’re playing. And limit screen time too.
Memory games, spelling games, toy cash registers, puzzles and other quiz games build math, verbal and critical thinking skills. With imaginative play, they also build their vocabulary.
Telescopes, microscopes and nature kits encourage a love of the world around them, while bead and jewelry kits encourage fine-motor skills.
Finding toys for teens can be a little more challenging but there isn’t a shortage of choice. Find activities that encourage a love of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). It’ll set them up for the future. And the best thing about this age is you can buy toys you always wanted but never had a reason to buy.