Choosing Educational Toys for the Holidays

You want to choose the most educational toys for your child this holiday season, but before you spend big bucks buying all the latest toys, make sure you know what you’re spending your money on. We here at SensoryEdge have believed that the best toys are usually simple, don’t contain batteries, and encourage imagination. Now, there is emerging evidence to support these beliefs.

According to a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no data at all that shows toys with talking buttons and singing animals help to promote a child’s development. In fact, the AAP consistently encourages parents to buy children open ended toys like shape sorters and building blocks.

This isn’t to say that more technologically advanced toys can’t help children learn to some small degree, but kids better grasp concepts like counting and reading when they’re learned by actively participating in their play, rather than simply listening to a character tell something is so.

You can better understand this concept by imagining that you have never seen the ocean. True, you can find out what it looks like by viewing pictures and you can learn about it through reading books; but this is only part of the story. With time, you will likely forget much of what you learned and unless you continuously look at the pictures, you can’t fully remember what the ocean looks like in your mind.

Now imagine that you go and see the ocean firsthand. You feel the sand in your toes and watch the way the waves crash onto the shore. By experiencing it firsthand, you will likely always remember what standing at the ocean looks and feels like.

Similarly, when children press a button and it tells them something is a “triangle”, they may understand that that particular button represents a triangle. However, if you give your child a paint set or a drawing board and show them what a triangle looks like and then allow them to practice making the shape themselves they are better able to internalize, and thus learn, what a triangle looks like, how to draw one, and what it IS.

So as you do your shopping this year, choose toys that allow kids to be more involved with their learning and play. One general rule of thumb is that if the toy will be moving more than you child will be, you’d likely be better off going with something else. Swinging monkeys and dogs that really walk may look cool, but they are good for little else even if they sing the alphabet.

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At SensoryEdge our focus is to educate, inform, and inspire each person caring for children to be and do their very best. It is not always easy and sometimes we don't take action (or we take the wrong action) because of a lack of understanding the real issues. We hope that the conversations that occur here will help in some small way better the lives of children, their families, and the professionals who work with them. We are always looking for valuable contributions to our site so if you are interested in becoming a contributor contact us.