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I'm The "Educational Toys" Contributor on Squidoo

Updated on May 27, 2014

Learning through play. It's a win-win

I love playing. I love learning. I think they have a symbiotic relationship in children's lives. Think about it. Children tend to learn effectively when they're having fun, and when they're building competence and confidence through learning, they tend to have more fun.

Enter educational toys. That phrase can conjure up images of playthings that are like the brussels sprouts of the toy bin. You know, the stuff that's good for you and the only reason you interact with it is because your mom makes you. That's not what I'll be talking about here. Whew.

Let me introduce you to some educational toys that are truly a marriage of fun and learning. The playthings I'll share with you are straight from my world as a mom with a multitude of children in her life. There's my 6 year old daughter, all her friends from our classroom/hybrid homeschool community, my 6 nieces and nephews, the kids in the childcare program I volunteer in at church as well as all the various and assorted friends we do playdates with regularly. With that many children in those settings, I see what toys rise to the top.

My list of fantastic educational toys may not read like you'd expect. I'm kind of an outside-the-box, big picture thinker, to use two well-worn cliches, and I think of learning not just in terms of school subjects but in terms of the many different types of intelligences that contribute to the way people think and interact with the world.

For example, extremely enjoyable toys that enhance a child's learning process might have qualities like:

- Helping a younger child or baby attain or practice developmentally appropriate skills

- Encourages the imagination and pretend play

- Introduces new concepts in an engaging way

- Develops healthy social skills

- Enhances critical thinking

- Is all about creativity

- Promotes discovering new ways to do something

I could go on. But I think you want to get to the toys now.

Whoever wants to understand much, must play much.

— Gottfried Benn

My main partner in playful learning and toy testing

Meet my daughter, BunnyJunior

No, that's not her real name. I write under the name BunnyFabulous, so she's of course, BunnyJunior. Yes, that is her foot up on her Rainbow Loom. She told me that holding it with her foot is part of the instructions for how to do a new bracelet pattern that she's made up. Never a dull moment with this kid.

On the days she's home doing school with me, I get to see a lot of the benefits of playful learning in action. While there are some fantastic toys that engage our children's minds and imaginations, I'm always reminded that it's the adventurous, inquiring spirit of children and their parents that really make learning come alive.

May she always be a lifelong learner.

By the way, since BunnyJunior just turned six, most of our personal toy experience is with playthings for her age and younger. We're branching out more every year.

What we're playing with now... - Some of my daughter BunnyJunior's current favorites

At the moment, one of our other go-to toys, a wooden USA map puzzle, isn't in the links list since it is currently unavailable on Amazon. Sigh.

Playmobil Animal Vet Operating Room
Playmobil Animal Vet Operating Room

My daughter got this for Christmas and all sorts of animal emergencies and medical care are acted out with it on a daily basis. I love Playmobil's realistic details that get kids' imaginations spinning about how they can live and do things in the grown-up world. This set has been a jumping off point for learning about what each piece of medical equipment is for and why operating rooms need big lights.

 
Crayola Pip-Squeaks Washable Markers, Telescoping Marker Tower, 50 count, Great for Home or School, Art Tools
Crayola Pip-Squeaks Washable Markers, Telescoping Marker Tower, 50 count, Great for Home or School, Art Tools

Yes, in my book markers are definitely educational toys, and Crayola's Pip-Squeaks introduce kids to a vivid array of WASHABLE color. My daughter loves the hand feel and control of the line she gets with these cute little markers. It's so much easier to draw and color more realistically with a huge set like this, and it won't break the bank like real art markers. I wish that the marker tower telescoped a little better, but even as-is, it's a very handy and organized container.

 
Wonder Forge Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It
Wonder Forge Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It

While Busytown can be played by preschoolers, it's still a hilariously fun challenge for young grade-school kids who love to play i-spy and find hidden details. My nieces and daughter have learned a good bit of cooperative strategy along the way as they've gotten better at the game.

 
Rainbow Loom Crafting Kit includes Loom, Metal Hook, Mini Rainbow Loom, 600 Rubber Bands + 24 Clips
Rainbow Loom Crafting Kit includes Loom, Metal Hook, Mini Rainbow Loom, 600 Rubber Bands + 24 Clips

It's BunnyJunior's professed favorite toy. She adores all the possibilities for creativity and making cool jewelry for herself, her friends and her stuffed animals.

 

One of my very favorite baby/toddler toys in action - I'll always love the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Learning Home because our daughter spent some much time

Sometimes she'd just play with one aspect of the toy for a bit, but it would keep reeling her in again and again.

BunnyJunior demonstrates the counting rain gutter feature.

She loves to play with this thing, even if just for a moment at a time. It always got her attention at least a couple times a day.

Playing with the mailbox. We ended up playing a lot of silly games with this feature.

So, do you love to learn with toys? - What have been some toys you or the kids in your life have learned from?

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    • samojonno profile image

      samojonno 3 years ago

      There are so many educational toys now compared to when I was a kid and I sometimes think what happens to imagination if is comes already pre-packaged from the shop? Mind you the toys today are amazing.

    • ComfortsOfHome profile image

      ComfortsOfHome 3 years ago

      Lucky little BunnyJunior, to help you out as a toy tester! You had me at Richard Scarry, a fond memory from my own toy-testing days at about the same age as your daughter. :)

    • athomemomblog profile image

      Genesis Davies 3 years ago from Guatemala

      Nice to "meet" you! I love educational toys. In our house, Lego is definitely one of the more popular educational toys.

      You're right about our niches working together, we should definitely figure something out.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from Perth UK

      Educational toys are certainly the best sort of toy. I always look out for them even now that my son is almost 14 and tells me he has grown out of toys - oh yeah - what about his dart board then! And he still uses his playmobil sets to make stop motion movies!! Great niche - so much fun!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 3 years ago from United States

      I absolutely love educational toys and I definitely preferred them when my children were little. I really do love the idea of combining play with education.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I still love playing and coloring and drawing and making stuff with clay! Looking to see more of what you and BunnyJunior give "thumbs up" to :)

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 3 years ago

      Yes. I consider taking photos to be a form of play.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 3 years ago

      This definitely sounds like a fun niche! I don't have any little ones at home just now, but with this info, I will be ready!