Play isn’t just fun—it is imperative to your child’s development. It’s so vital, in fact, that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes it as a right that should be enjoyed by every child.
Sadly, in an age of smartphones, extracurricular activities, and unmitigated academic pressure, kids spend far less time playing. It’s understandable that parents want youngsters to keep up with schoolwork and enrichment activities, but free time with educational toys is just as important. Below, we explore the role toys can play in your child’s development—and offer suggestions to keep in mind as you search for the perfect gift.
Tips for Choosing Educational Toys
Browse Amazon or your average department store, and you’ll see a whole lot of toys with strong claims about educational value. Marketing executives are well aware of parents’ desire to provide an academic boost from the very beginning—and they’ve followed through with a myriad of educational toys. Shopping may seem overwhelming, but remember: fancier isn’t always better. Sometimes, the simplest toys are the most beneficial. Keep the following in mind as you select the best products for your child:
Be Mindful of Screen Time
Common Sense Media reports that children up to age eight years old spend, on average, over two hours on screens every day. That figure dramatically increases as kids hit their tween years. Excessive exposure to screens can prompt sleep disturbances and a whole host of other issues. When possible, opt for toys that encourage learning without the interference of yet another screen.
Select Open-Ended Toys
When in doubt, choose toys that can be used on several occasions and in a variety of ways without boring your kids. Open-ended toys such as blocks and LEGO spark imagination and can be used in several contexts. Additionally, these versatile toys encourage critical thinking and STEM skills.
Don’t Forget About Creativity
Today’s parents are in a race to equip their kids for success in STEM. Yes, it’s wise to build these skills early, but not to the detriment of creativity. The best toys combine multiple learning elements, allowing kids to explore STEM while also using their imagination. Don’t forget the arts; youth-oriented instruments and artistic tools provide hours of educational, free-spirited fun.
Consider Your Child’s Current Interests
Don’t attempt to force a toy on a kid who just isn’t interested, it’s better to develop their current interests. If you’re determined to broaden your child’s horizons, find something that has just enough in common with the things they already love.
Kids can gain a lot from one-to-one play time, but toys can also help them build valuable social skills. Those who play together learn how to collaborate, compromise, and navigate inevitable conflicts. However, some toys are easier to share than others. Aim to provide toys that multiple kids (and ideally, those of different ages) can happily play with together.
Top Educational Toys
Still struggling to come up with ideas for educational toys that will suit your kids? From classics to new hits, these toys will thrill both you and your children:
- LEGO Blocks
- Lincoln Logs
- Mathlink Cubes
- Quercetti Gears
- Scientific Explorer Mind Blowing Kit
- Tenergy Dynamo STEM Building Toy
- Smart Wallaby Instrument Set
Ultimately, almost any toy that encourages critical thinking is a safe bet for your children. Watching your child unwrap and play with these toys will bring an instant smile to your face, especially knowing that the fun they’re having now is preparing them for a bright future.