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Mariam Ekizyan April 24, 2012Toys That Help Kids Learn At Every StageShopping for children’s toys isn’t always an easy task. There are so many things to consider. Forexample, are they age appropriate and safe? Are they valuable learning tools?Throughout the years, toys have always played an important role in each stage of a child’s life. Not onlyshould a toy provide fun, it should help to stimulate the senses. As an integral part of everyday play, atoy should contribute to a child’s cognitive, emotional and physical development.In our previous blog post, we provided some tips on how to choose a toy based on your child’s interests,interaction with others and skills. In this blog, we’ll focus on toys for children of different ages.Infants & ToddlersDuring the first years of life, babies explore the world through their senses. They try to touch and feeleverything with hands, feet or mouth. Gradually they recognize familiar faces and match them withvoices, utter their first words and balance their first steps. Bright colorful toys that have simple designs,can be pulled, squeezed, poked, twisted and do not break are perfect for this age. For example, stuffedanimals and washable dolls with embroidered eyes allow babies to feel different textures. Toddlers alsoenjoy playing with toys that contain pictures, small non-glass mirrors (where they can observethemselves) and toys that make noise in response to their actions, such as pressing the button. Picturebooks with sounds, musical toys, or toys that move stimulate children’s hearing and eye-sight. Stackingring cones and building blocks with animal images, numbers or letters encourage not only hand-eyecoordination but can also help a child to match sounds with images and serve as the first stage oflearning letters and numbers.Preschoolers: Ages 3 – 5At this stage, children are quite energetic, active and curious. They learn many new things includingsocial skills, simple counting, their vocabulary expands and they become more independent throughrefined physical mobility. Kids start exploring their body image and self, develop sense of time andspace, use their imagination, engage in conversations, ask many questions, and react to differentsituations. At this stage, parents have a wide range of toys to choose from for their children. Simplepuzzles and board games stimulate children’s problem-solving skills, teaches them to co-operate withothers and follow the rules. 1
Mariam Ekizyan April 24, 2012Large crayons, colorful play dough, and other art kits give children unlimited opportunities to create anyshape or object they can imagine. Building structures with the blocks, pulling wagons, moving trains ortrucks, riding tricycles or low rocking horses, and kicking large balls enhances kids’ physical strength andimproves motor skills. Kids also enjoy to be read to. Toys can also affect a child’s behavior. Dress-upclothing and puppets allow kids to express themselves and act as different characters such as a queen,an action figure or a bee. Playing with dolls, tea sets, and instrument kits can help build a child’s sense ofresponsibility as they try to imitate their parents or siblings through role-play. For example, with Corolledolls little girls act as mom, big sister or babysitter learning to care and nurture “their baby”.Ages 5 – 8More attention to appearance, control of behavior, development of personal opinion, understanding ofinner feelings, and rational thinking are key achievements at this stage. Children take initiatives andmake guesses, create their own fantasy worlds, coordinate with others in time and space, realize thatthere are differences between people, their feelings and appearances. They usually engage more instaged learning, creative expressions, working with peers, and serious games through which they learnabout the real world while using their counting and language skills. Sewing materials, printing andstamp sets, sketch pads, paints and colored pencils help kids to express their creativity and capture theirfantasy world and feelings. For example, Alex craft kits help children create their own accessories suchas purses, scarves, blankets etc. Other great toys that stimulate mind and develop cognitive skills arejigsaw puzzles, construction sets, board games, magnets, simple calculators and building toys. Playmobiland Lego sets give children infinite possibilities to create and manage their fantasy worlds and come upwith different creative solutions. By using simple magnetic shapes such as Magformers, kids can buildcomplex structures such as space ships, machines, animals and much more.Ages 9 – 12During this stage, children are developing into preadolescents and experiencing physical, social andmental changes. Small muscles of the body become stronger and kids enjoy using those muscles whenplaying with things like musical instruments or small intricate building blocks. They start developing 2
Mariam Ekizyan April 24, 2012hobbies, make new friendships, join groups and create deeper bonds with family. Though they are stillwilling to play, they understand the importance of self-discipline and focus their attention on academiclearning. Major changes occur in cognitive development. Thinking becomes more concrete andanalytical; imagination, creative expression, and potential for achievements grows. Children analyzedifferent behaviors, dig in to find the causes of the action or event, focus on performing versus makingthings up, follow rules and envision their future. Skills such as negotiating, leadership and decision-making improve as the child co-operates with their peers during school assignments or in groups.Gender issues gradually arise and children feel conscious of their sexuality and their self image.Many children enjoy playing rule-based games, such as trivia, card games, complex puzzles and boardgames. Wise Alec and Professor Noggins are among the games that support school curriculum andwiden a child’s knowledge through questions and pictures. Arts and crafts materials and musicalinstruments help children develop and pursue their hobbies while stimulating their imagination andcreative performance. For instance, children can conduct their own scientific experiments through 4MScience kits. Mighty Mind toys stimulate decision making and creative thinking while children solvepuzzles and combine shapes to design different objects. Pathfinder wooden toys are a great challengefor children and encourage them to explore the link between science, design and technology. In this blog, we chose to focus on traditional toys versus their hi-tech counterparts. Non-electronic toysencourage more imagination because they are not pre-programmed and therefore do not limit a child towhat they can do with that toy. Put a child and an electronic/video toy together and you will more thanlikely notice that the child will become anti-social. Non-electronic toys on the other hand promotesocial interaction with others. In many cases, non-electronic toys teach a kid many values such asfriendship and generosity. Such toys also encourage kids to get their bodies moving, which is really agreat thing with obesity fast becoming a problem among kids these days. If you want the best deal foryour money, non-traditional or non-electronic toys are a sure winner. As you may have experiencedyourself, electronic toys do not last long; they get broken easily, and even if they don’t get broken,they’re only good for a period of time as a child eventually gets bored of repeating the same actionsover and over again. 3