What is Educational?
The first five years of a baby’s life are such a whirlwind for the parents: Did she eat enough? When was the last time he pooped? Does my 2-year-old really need a Chinese class? Ack—kindergarten, already? With all this going on, it’s easy to overlook the fact that your baby’s brain is developing faster than it will at any other time in her life—and that her lifelong capacity for learning will be mostly cemented before her bottom ever hits an elementary school chair. Kind of a scary thought. But thankfully one of the best ways to ensure optimal brain development is to play with your baby—a lot. This is where educational toys come in to play.
We’ve all heard the “Expert” say: “educational toys are a great way to help children learn, practice and develop essential life skills.” But, there is one absolute and critical requirement for these toys to pass as “toys.” Well, they have to be FUN! If your child won’t play with them, it is basically useless.
Children explore their environments and learn to interact with the world through “play.” They don’t comprehend theories and principles but they ARE beginning to actively use their imagination, discern social patterns and exercise their cognitive reasoning skills.
Kids need to experience the world first hand. Translation: They will be doing all those things that make us want to say “NO!” like crawling through/over/under, touching, pulling, pushing and yes, throwing. They need to see something drop, fly, spill, crumble, spin, make noise, light up and so on because this is their main form of learning.
In other words, Kids need to interact with the world in ways that engage their senses. Repeatedly. Slowly but surely, they begin to construct rules on how the world works (e.g., “When I throw this, mommy is not happy.” Eureka!?)
So the answer to the question “Can educational toys help my child learn better?” is a big “YES”. But make sure the toys you take home are engaging toys that create opportunities to interact with the world because it’s the experiences that create educational value, not the toy itself.
I am a big believer in the “right toy at the right time.” As your child grows up, it is important to find specialized toys to suit her interests. If she’s into building blocks and puzzles, challenging her with harder and harder puzzles will certainly help with cognitive development, while keeping her interest. The same goes for crafts or word games. But when it comes to educational infant toys (<6months) don’t get too specialized. Find great classics and find the time to spend with your baby.
About the Author
Guest article provided by Alice Wang who is the Founder and CEO of Spark Box Toys (www.sparkboxtoys.com) a New York based educational toy company that delivers award winning toys to families. Prior to Spark Box, Alice was a venture capital investor in the education space focused on personalized learning and education technology. Alice is a graduate of MIT, where she met her best friend and co-founder of Spark Box Toys. Though much neglected, her hobbies remain: running, sailing, diving and photography.