Learning Toys for Children
Overwhelmed by all the learning toys for children out there? We believe that the toy industry is deceiving parents and carers into buying loads of useless toys. With so much choice parents can feel a little lost about which toys to buy for their own children because every one of them claims to be educational as well as heaps of fun.
Yet throughout the years of early years education and childcare we’ve seen many toys that neither entertain nor educate young children! Some even make little ones very frustrated.
So… which are the best learning toys for children?
Children naturally enjoy learning, which is very handy as don’t toddlers have a lot to learn?! It is now widely known and accepted than children learn heaps through play.
Ever noticed that toddlers often play with shoes, phone, keys, water bottles and bags etc instead of their toys? I have, many times! It makes sense when we think about how basically a child’s main goal in life is to become a successful adult, so of course they want our stuff to learn with. Our pages Easy Homemade Toys and Constructive Playthings share creative and proven ways in which everyday items can become learning toys for children.
Ah, I see you came looking for the best learning toys for children rather toddler activities. Professionally made toys for young children are useful too, especially for gifts.
The Known or the Unknown?
Meaning – would you like to give something along the themes which you know they’ll like or introduce them to something new? Everyone learns much more effectively when they’re interested in the topic. Of course we want to get something they would like!
Maybe however you think they are lacking in a particular area of development and would like to encourage them to practice with this gift? That is a very thoughtful and valid goal. We all don’t know, what we don’t know, do we? 🙂
When we buy learning toys for children we often aim to give them the opportunity to aim for a slightly higher skill set while basing it on a theme which they like. For example, I (Claire) recently bought a set of two-piece transport jigsaws for an 18-month-old girl because she can easily complete lift out puzzles and excitedly points out transport wherever we are.
Do you Know Their Dominant Learning Style?
This is a tricky question to ask about a young child, so don’t worry if you don’t know. We all learn via our senses yet our brains may prefer one or two ways of receiving information.
The Three Main Learning Styles
- Auditory (hearing)
- Visual (sight)
- Kineasthetic (touch and movement)
For example, I remember something much better if I write it down because I learn best through visual and kineasthetic means.
It’s easy to guess which styles of learning some toddlers prefer but other tots seem to use their senses an equal amount (which is also fine). It’s handy to pick out toys for young children which give them the opportunity to use all three learning styles.
Representing All the Areas of Development
We kind of do this without really thinking about it. However, some people think learning toys of children directly relate to letters, numbers and shapes. Yet toddlers learn from everything (unless they’ve already learnt it). Maybe we should be asking ourselves what would they learn from any toy we consider buying. Remember that learning is fun for young children (unless they a forced to do something they think is boring, of cause).
General Areas of Development
- Cognitive (gaining knowledge, understanding and problem solving etc)
- Language and Literacy (talking, signing, singing, reading and writing)
- Fine manipulative skills (using pencil/scissors and handling small items etc)
- Gross motor skills (climbing, jumping and playing with balls etc)
- Social and Emotional (sharing, remembering rules and expressing emotions etc)
- Creativity and Imagination (art, music, pretend play)
It’s helpful if children have access to props which allow them to practise all areas of development.
Which Does More: The Child or the Toy?
It’s handy to remember that the toy industry’s main goal is to make a profit, not to educate children! They make and market many sophisticated, technically enhanced educational toys for children which carry high price tags. They call all of them learning toys for children, but simply pressing buttons may not be enough movement to satisfy a kineasthetic learner or the recorded voices and sound effects may be unclear even for an auditory learner and screens can trick the depth perception skills of young children.
It’s widely known in the early years educational field that a lot of young children learn best by directly being involved and seeing/hearing first hand how objects work. Handling a variety of different sorts of materials gives children a greater sensory experience, including weight, temperature, texture and sound. Montessori toys offer a variety of sensory experiences. Many wooden toys have been so popular that they have stood the test of time.
I’ve observed that the less toys do, the more the child does (i.e. often affecting more developmental areas and a deeper understanding). Also the simpler the imaginative play props are, the more creative the game is. A stick or a box can be an endless variety of things to an imaginative child.
Recommended Toddler Developmental Toys
Clever Toddler Activities has two Amazon stores, one using the UK and the other the USA sites. The toys have been carefully picked out and are the same price as the rest of Amazon.
Interested in Book and Art Supplies Too?
Art supplies are learning toys for children too. You can find the lowdown on the most toddler friendly types of art supplies on our toddler art page.