As the trend to label toys because"educational" continues to rise, parents may wonder whether the hype associated with these types of toys is true and if they're worth the cash. Here are five tips from toy and education experts on what to consider when picking an educational toy for your child:
The tie between education and toys has ever existed but with the continuing wave of high-technology educational toys, so lots of the toys teachers and parents used to associate with learning may no longer be known for their instructional value. "The best toys are simple and open minded," says Ellen Wild, chairperson of the Early Childhood Program in Dutchess Community College.
Wild proposes giving children crayons, markers and plain paper, together with ribbons and envelopes to promote thinking about writing. She also points into blocks, Legos, and manipulatives (think: stacking toys, shape sorters) to help develop small muscles in the palms and fingers in anticipation of writing and to assist with perceptual motor abilities. Wild says she does see children that have been entertained too exclusively by electronics and toys with"bells and whistles". "A lot of these children haven't learned persistence, an ability to focus without being entertained," says Wild,"(They) haven't enjoyed being creative on their own and are not excited by learning and books."
READ MORE: The argument on educational toys
Individualize your strategy
"Toys are resources in creating the learning environment," says Natasha Kravchenko, representative of Educational Toys Planet, an online retailer since 2002. Kravchenko states it is important to choose the ideal toy for the child's age, attention or stage. And to not purchase exactly what mr.immortal want or what you wanted as a child except to buy the toy that is suitable for your child's personality. She proposes considering which toys can make your child want to find something new, improve their skills, and promote independent learning. "You can assess consumer's reviews and manufacturer's age guidelines, but your selection should mostly depend on your kid," states Kravchenko,"not other people's opinion about the toy."
Go to the land of make believe
"The best toys are ones that boost creativity and pretend play," says Nancy Werner, Kindergarten teacher in Traver Road School in Pleasant Valley. "These toys also develop with the child and they are able to use them for several purposes."
Werner, with a four-year old, indicates dress up clothes, play food and dolls to foster imagination, production of stories and language which result in reading comprehension and writing skills. She also urges creative games that be played with adults or other kids, such as Candy Land, for growing counting, collaboration, turn taking and problem solving.
Parents should be careful about the promises made by instructional toy commercials. "Children's development can not be hastened," says Jim Taylor, Ph. D, Psychology, author of"Your Children are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids' Values, and How You Can Protect Them." "Children can only develop at the speed they're capable."
Taylor says that attempting to accelerate a child's development can actually slow it down since children are forced to do things for which they are not developmentally ready. The outcome is that kids are prevented from doing what they ought to be doing at their stage of development.
"It is more important to have conversations with children and ask them questions to help them explain and think than to invest hundreds of dollars on a toy or movie which will be only a 1 way'dialog'," says Werner.
Werner and Wild either point to novels, either bought or borrowed, as being one of the best educational assets your youngster can own. And one of the best tools parents can use to educate their children. "One of the very best educational'toys' for a kid is an adult who spends time speaking, studying, and appreciating the wonders of earth with (these )," says Wild.