I'm The "Educational Toys" Contributor on Squidoo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More Fantastic Learning Toys - Reviews I've written about toys we love to play with and learn from
- 10 Reasons to Love the Rainbow Loom
My daughter's favorite toy, hands down, has helped her grow her competence, confidence and bracelet collection.
- Playmobil Open Air Pool - Fantastic Pretend Play
We have a lot of fun making up all sorts of pretend scenarios with this pool, and there are some hidden opportunities for experimentation.
- Why My Family Loves The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
Preschoolers learn, have fun and even gain better fine motor skills in this adorable squirrel game.