As a caring and involved parent, you want to assist your child’s development in any way you can. Why not acquire educational toys geared toward encouraging growth in all of the developmental areas? Authorities differ slightly on how to organize these domains. However, a good standard to follow is that set by Drs. Dorothy and Jerome Singer of Yale University, who identify six essential elements of developmental play that can be cultivated through the use of age-appropriate educational toys:
- Motor development: the development of gross motor skills that use large muscle groups for activities such as running, kicking, balancing, jumping, hopping, lifting, climbing, and swinging, and the development of more delicate fine motor skills, such as the pincer grip of thumb and forefinger.
- Eye-hand development and vision: the development of keen powers of perception and of the ability to use the eyes and hands together in coordination to perform a task.
- Cognitive learning: the development of the ability to learn new knowledge and to process, understand, and apply this knowledge to different ends. Developing this area helps a child improve his or her capacity for mental activities such as reasoning, interpreting, comparing and contrasting, evaluating, judging, inferring, predicting, sequencing, and visualizing. It also helps children master specific content knowledge relating to vocabulary, mathematics, science, and so forth.
- Hearing, Listening, and Voice: the development of skills relating to the senses and communication. Developing this area allows a child to discriminate between different types of sensory input, processing those that are important and screening out ones that are not.
- Social/Emotional: the development of skills relating to how one interacts with other people and how one behaves oneself.
- Creative/Imaginative: the development of skills relating to pretending about the world and using the imagination to explore new ideas and possible solutions to problems.
Which Educational Toys to Get
To develop gross motor skills, look for toys that require large, yet controlled movements from your child. As they begin to stand and walk, provide younger children with wooden push and pull toys. As they gain more control over their muscles, get them wagons, play strollers and shopping carts, tricycles, and kid-powered ride-on cars such as the Plasma Car. Look for toys that develop more specific gross motor skills, such as hopscotch sets (hopping), jump ropes or the Spin Master Stomp Rocket (jumping), or hula hoops (rotating body). Sports equipment also promotes the development of more varied gross motor skills.
To develop fine motor skills, look for toys that require your child to perform precise, controlled hand movements. For example, get lacing cards or activity books or boards that have the child perform life skills such as buttoning, tying laces, zipping, snapping, cutting, and locking and unlocking.
To promote eye-hand development and vision, seek out toys that require children to use keen perception in concert with hand dexterity. For example, get nesting and stacking toys such as the Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker; blocks and other building sets; peg boards; puzzles; and art activities such as drawing, cutting, painting, sculpting, or lacing beads. Also look for toys that increase your child’s sense of perception, such as I Spy books or puzzles that require children to differentiate between different sizes or colors of the same object.
To develop cognitive skills, look for toys that require the use of logic, identifying patterns, finding solutions, and solving puzzles. For example, get games that require children to use clues and deductions to solve problems, such as the classic board game Clue or FoxMind Games’s Logix I. Or get science and nature kits that develop children’s powers of observation and investigation, such as Battat’s Bug Catcher Set. Or get toys and games that teach content skills and problem-solving skills, such as Melissa and Doug’s See and Spell. Or get building sets or model sets by makers such as Meccano that require children to think about how pieces can and should fit together.
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To develop hearing, listening, and voice, look for toys that appeal to the senses. Get musical instruments such as shakers, drums, whistles, triangle, tambourines, and xylophones to encourage children to play with and compare different sounds. You can also get toys that help children discriminate between different sounds, such as sound puzzles.
To develop social and emotional skills,look for toys that require your child to interact with other people. For example, games such as FoxMind Games’ Babylon teach skills like taking turns and good sportsmanship. Building toys such as wooden unit block sets or Legos encourage skills such as cooperation and sharing as children work together to construct something.
To develop creativity and imagination, look for toys that encourage your child to create things or to pretend or role-play scenarios. For example, Uberstix construction systems can be used to build an infinite variety of structures. Art and craft supplies give children practice with making things. Dolls, dollhouses, Battat toy vehicles, and toy dinosaurs can all be used as props to make up stories and recreate real-life scenarios. Costumes, props, and copies of real-life objects can all also be used in imaginative play.