The Best Toys for Toddlers to Enhance Learning

You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process ... thumbnail 1 summary
You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford

My 4-year old daughter, Francine, is a very active, very curious child. It's always been a challenge for me when it comes to buying toys for her. I've always wanted to give her toys that are enjoyable, safe and can help her acquire learning skills.

With literally thousands of toys being marketed today, a lot of them, so-called "educational toys" well, visits to the toy store makes me dizzy and unsure of what can really help her learn as well as fun enough to hold a 4-year olds attention.

I've read a parenting article advising that the best educational toys, according to child-development experts, are those that encourage the development of specific skills, as opposed to toys that present facts or simply claim to "improve learning." "Enhances cognitive development sounds technical, but is really too general to be useful," writes psychologist Susan Hardwicke, in the October 2003 issue of Toy Directory Monthly. The truth is that all experiences develop the brain. The key to cognitive educational toys is to develop a number of different skills that are ultimately used in complex ways later in life."

Child development specialist say that the educational value of toys are much broader than right or wrong answers or simply knowing ABC's or 123's.
  • A rich variety of play gives children opportunities to learn and develop their physical, social, creative and intellectual skills. For example, through 'pretend,' children develop language and imagination-- the underpinnings for reading and writing.
  • A craft or construction kit involves fine motor skills and building dexterity, along with the ability to read and follow directions, working in a step-by-step sequence and staying with a task that is less than instantaneous."
Joanne Oppenheim, child development specialist and cofounder of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio recommends the following categories for playthings that enhance learning:
  1. Building Toys - for developing children's spatial reasoning as well as their ability to stick with a task (Lego's, building blocks)
  2. Art Supplies - allows for creative and nonverbal self-expression
  3. Props for Play-acting and Role Playing - food for imagination and language development;
  4. Board games that involve matching, counting and turn-taking
  5. Sports equipment - develops muscle coordination and teamwork as well as sense of fair play
  6. Puzzles - develop visual discrimination and patience to stay with a less than instant task.
I've been following this tip ( too keep me sane too when visiting the toy stores) and surprisingly, whenever we go out my daughter now actually chooses puzzles and art supplies instead of other toys...

Hope this can help for mom's on the lookout for gifts this Christmas!

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