Looking for educational toys for your child that really make a difference to their success at school - and let them have some good fun at the same time?
Parents, grandparents and carers often ask us:
"What kind of educational toys should I buy for my kid?
How can I choose the best possible educational game or toy for them?"
Choosing the right kind of educational toys will be so important to help your children or grandchildren develop the skills they'll require for future success at school and in their lives.
Here are 5 tips to guide you in your search:
Tip #1: Select an educational game or toy that is age appropriate.
If it's too challenging, your child simply gives up. If it's too easy, they get bored. The ideal is to get them into a state of what is known as 'flow'. When you are in flow, you are in the 'zone'. You don't realise that time is passing. And that is the ideal time to learn new skills.
There is an incredible amount of research about how being in 'flow' helps children (and adults too) to gain skills that they need to build a strong foundation for school success.
The best way to find out if a particular toy will help your child achieve this is to try it yourself first. you could also ask your teacher or other parents if they think it would be useful.
You might have to give this a few tries by experimenting with something different every day. This does not mean that you always have to buy the latest gadget or toy or in fact, anything that is outside of your budget.
Try to find simple objects that you might have at home – they make great educational toys.
The kitchen is a treasure trove of educational games that you can readily find to keep our child learning and having fun at the same time.
For example: Kids aged 3-5 years love exploring boxes, cartons, plastic containers and anything that isn't sharp or breakable. They can stack them into towers. They can sort them by colour. If that isn't the cheapest shape sorter you can find, what is!
They can also entertain themselves by setting up their own mini-kitchen which encourages creativity as well as observational skills.
And what's more, they are a great way to build both fine and gross motor skills. They have to use their fingers and hands to build strength to hold small objects such as a pen. They also build gross motor skills by moving around more and using those bigger muscles needed to be strong at sport.
'There are educational games such as: 'spot the differences' with food. The differences or similarities help children to identify patterns which is an important skill for reading and doing maths.
Use everyday household items to raise smarter kids
Who would have guessed – everyday household items such as toothbrushes, spoons, cups and plates are in fact excellent tools and make great educational toys.
For example, you can use them to create patterns which is an essential skill for learning how to read and for being able to do predictions in maths.
No expense involved here and loads of fun and learning at the same time. No need for expensive tablets for kids - the household has many objects that that can be used as building toys.
Tip #2: Choose Educational Toys that are structured.
The best educational toys and games are structured. There are some great ones that we call based on 'free play' but if you want your child to build certain skills areas, structured activities are the way to go. They have instructions and they require some form of set-up that your child can follow
This does involve some of your time in the initial set-up as you need to ensure that your child has all the required pieces of the educational game or toy to ensure that it works out well. You also might have to read the instructions together with your child so that they are clear on what they need to do. They might also need coaching along the way until they get the hang of it.
Free play or open-ended play encourages creativity and initial exposure for example to numbers or letters. But if you are looking for more than that, the educational game cannot just be open-ended.
In order to set things up well for your child:
- Ensure that you understand how the educational game works - or explore together with your child.
- Take a small amount of time out of your busy day to sit with them to ensure that they know what to do and provide guidance if they go off track.
- Watch to see when they go out of 'flow' - when they become bored or frustrated because of the level of the challenge. Move onto something else if necessary. For example, if a jigsaw puzzle is just proving to be too difficult for their level, just store it for another time.
- Activity books are also a great way of combining some open play and structured play as they could even help build basic math skills at the same time - and kids can pick and choose which activity is interesting to them.
There is scientific research to back up all that we are saying here! Have a look at the research that is emerging about why educational toys are critically important for ongoing development to empower kids to reach their full potential.
Tip #3: Find Educational Toys to boost skills.
Educational toys are a great way to develop skills such as problem solving, creativity, imagination, and social interaction. There are many educational tools that are carefully designed to meet specific developmental goals. For example, building blocks encourage children to build their own structures, while other games allow them to practice nurturing relationships.
There simply isn't enough time in a school day for teachers to spend time with each individual child. If you can ask the teacher what sort of skills your child still needs to develop, that will guide you in choosing an educational toy that builds those skills sets.
For example, if they aren't grasping number concepts, then it makes it easier for you to select an educational toy or game that focuses on that area for development.
Educational toys boost your child’s problem-solving skills
Select educational toys that encourage them to think about how things work. This includes using logic and reasoning. It also means that there should be a variety of ways to solve problems.
Boost your child's problem-solving skills by selecting educational toys that encourage them to think about how things work. This includes using logic and reasoning. It also means that there should be a variety of ways to solve problems.
Some games may involve physical challenges such as balancing objects or stacking items - all a huge aid for ongoing strength building and physical development.
Others may require mental challenges such as matching shapes or bright colors. Or perhaps there are puzzles where they need to find patterns or match symbols - all a huge help when it comes to color recognition and Math Skills.
The more we keep our kids' hands busy, the better they become at all kinds of unexpected skills. Logical thinking is one of them and it can be achieved without an expensive device.
Here is some great research to back up what we are saying.
Tip #4: Ask what toys or learning game does your child like?
Children often gravitate towards certain toys - it could be that they are more inclined to use plastic or wooden blocks or others prefer to do arts and crafts. Ensure that you have a good mix available of the type of educational toy that they like as well as others that might challenge them in a different direction.
Repetition of skills is great! So, don't worry if they return several times to the same educational game - as long as they are learning from it and as long as they are continuing to build their skills!
Educational toys engage your child for longer periods of time - so it's important to choose toys they enjoy. In that way you are encouraging them to they feed the hunger of their brain for neural stimulation.
Just a word of caution when choosing the right educational toy
You also want to be able to challenge your child to achieve more and to develop their skills to an even higher level. It might be easier at some points of the day to simply put your child down in front of the TV or a digital device and absolutely, this is often necessary. Parents aren't machines and there is a time and place for digital so please don't think for a moment that we are resisting the pull of TV shows completely.
But when you do have the time and energy, give a new educational toy or game a go! You might surprise yourself by just how much you enjoy doing it as well.
Your joy at seeing how much your child is learning and how their skills develop might just make your day! And if you need to relax as well, why not try out an educational tool that includes sensory stimulation - it could help both of you just calm things down.
Here is a good article for you if you would like to explore further thinking on the benefits of active play versus passive seating to watch TV or play mindlessly on a device.
Tip #5: Choose some educational games to do in groups
Develop your child's social and emotional skills by choosing educational toys that are done in groups. This is also perfect for autistic children who need to develop these skills. The educational game will need to be set up in order for you to gain full advantage of the group benefits such as communicating with others and working in a team.
The type of skills that children will ultimately need in the 21st Century workplace include the ability to work in a team, cooperate with others and problem solve collectively. Those are the exact type of skills that a well-chosen educational game that is done in a group will achieve,
Educational or board games conducted in groups also ensure that children learn to self-regulate. Here are other advantages:
- They have to wait their turn and complete their role in a timely way.
- They have to learn to be patient and work with others to allow them to speak and take their turn. This is also a great booster for them for their language development.
- They also build their listening skills so that they realise that they have to perform all parts of the communication process - listening well is one of them!
- They use their thinking skills to help them to problem solve as they work their way through the rules of games such as matching games. This will help them in future as they work through arithmetic puzzles at school.
The best learning tools for kids are ones that are fun to play with and help teach important life lessons.
They can be very simple games. They're not only great for developing motor skills, but they'll also help your kid learn valuable skills like patience, teamwork, and communication. They play a key role in Cognitive Development and after all, isn't that what we all want for our kids!
Here is some further reading that you might find useful as you explore more about how to select and use educational toys with your kid:
This is a great article about the importance of using manipulatives to help improve maths skills.
This is a fabulous research document from the LEGO Foundation that talks about the top skills that children need to be successful in life - and how these can be achieved through play.
Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for a variety of free activities and fun ideas! Have fun while your child develops their motor and social skills.
Read more interesting articles about how to incorporate play and educational toys and games into your children's lives:
Here we explore what to do if your child isn't too keen to try out new activities.
In this blog, we have a look at what to do if your child is too engaged with digital devices - how any you mix it up a bit more?
Our Yay4Play educational games and resources are based on the world renowned Six Bricks method - they are fun and they build key skills for school success. And what's more - they are perfect for educational toys for ages 3 - 6 with a choice of over 100 activities.