The 10 Best Educational Toys
10. Zoob Builderz
9. Learning Resources Pretend & Play
8. Scientific Explorer Mind-Blowing Science Kit
7. Kano Computer Kit
6. Educational Insights Design & Drill
5. SmartGames Three Little Piggies
4. Magformers Standard Set
3. Gamewright Scrambled States
2. Wonder Workshop Dash Robot
1. Snap Circuits SC-300
What Exactly Are Educational Toys?
While many toys offer some incidental educational value, only toys designed with a specific educational goal in mind should be considered an educational toy. Educational toys are available for children of nearly any age. Some argue that any toy which a child can interact with and teaches them something about the world is an educational toy, but by this definition even a stick or a rock could be considered an educational toy, hence most consider it too broad.
A truly educational toy should promote some type of emotional, intellectual or physical development while being fun and entertaining for the child. Some may be used to teach a child about a specific subject or skill, while others provide all around cognitive developmental value.
Educational toys designed to teach a child about a specific subject matter, such as science or history, can be classified as curriculum-based educational toys. When evaluating the potential effectiveness of a curriculum-based toy, one should look for a clear statement of knowledge to be gained by playing with the toy. This can often be found somewhere in the toy's description. One should avoid curriculum-based educational toys where the marketing terminology is vague on what knowledge will be gained.
Unlike curriculum-based toys, cognitive-based educational toys don't teach about a specific subject. Instead, they are designed to stimulate specific areas of the brain and help them fully develop. This can be done by performing a range of physical and mental activities. Evaluating the potential effectiveness of a cognitive toy is often more difficult as many of the manufacturer's claims will be vague and hard to disprove.
The key is to select toys which promote the learning of some type of skill that will be used in a more complex way as a child ages. One should also look for any available research or studies conducted by the manufacturers that backup their claims.
The Importance Of Educational Toys
Children learn about the world around them through direct experiences. Not all knowledge will be learned in school. In fact much of what children learn in school explains the science behind concepts they have already learned through direct interaction.
Consider gravity. Children learn about the concept of gravity long before they are taught about it in school. When first born, they do not know that an object they drop will fall to the ground. This is a learned by playing with toys and dropping them. They may let go of a rattle to see if falls to the floor. Often if the parent picks it up and hands it back to them, they will quickly drop it again. This is their way of learning what happens when they drop an item. In essence, they are teaching themselves about the concept of gravity.
In addition to teaching children concepts about the world around them, educational toys are a fun way to improve physical capabilities, including balance, coordination, muscle strength and more. Toys that use shapes and holes which must be filled, teach children about spatial reasoning, which is a valuable skill for later in life. One that requires precise movements enhances fine motor skills.
Many educational toys are designed in a way to enhance a particular skill, such as memory, problem-solving, recognition, and the development of logic. All of these skills will be needed and used in more complex ways throughout life. Educational toys teach them in a way that is entertaining and engaging for the child, motivating them to learn and grow in new ways.
What To Consider When Buying An Educational Toy
It is important to pick an educational toy that matches the child's mental and physical development level. To do this, one must consider the age of the child and the skills they are currently learning. For example, a toddler who can barely crawl will need an educational toy that can be used stationary, while those who have recently learned the joy of walking may quickly become bored by a toy they cannot take around the house with them and would prefer some form of climbing equipment. A better gift for a young child who still has limited motor skills would be thick and chunky crayons, while a better gift for child who has recently learned to write would be fine-tipped markers.
In this same right, one should also consider what the child is currently interested in. If a child is interested in dinosaurs, one should look for an educational toy with a dinosaur theme. Puzzles, books, and games can be found with nearly any type of theme. If a child has recently gained an interest in science, there are science kits available for young children. The manufacturer will also specify an age range they have developed the toy for. Children who are interested in bugs and other insects would most likely get lots of use out of a microscope, through which they can learn about anatomy.
The next thing to consider is how a child's development in a specific area can be supported. Educational toys are available designed to support a range of areas, including language and vocabulary development, imagination, math, science, problem-solving skills, physical abilities, and social skills.