There are so many different kinds of toys out there, that it can quickly become very confusing. Most parents would prefer to buy toys that are didactical and educational, but what does this exactly mean? What are educational toys? The term ‘educational’ means to educate, to inform and to help to learn. Educational toys inspire children to grow and help them to learn and acquire new skills. We have compiled a short summary of different types of educational toys and would like to explain how these toys support children in their development.
Versatile toys stimulate creativity and imagination
Toys that are designed so that they can to be used in a variety of ways, stimulate free play and allow children to be active and decide themselves how to use these toys. This not just gives them greater freedom of choice, encourages independent thinking and strengthens their self esteem, but also stimulates creativity and imagination. Building blocks are a wonderful example for a toy that encourages free play. It is up to the kids to decide how to use the building blocks and what to build with them. The constructions are usually different every time they play. Creative thinking and imagination is thus ideally promoted.
Free play with construction and building toys
Building blocks and other construction toys further help improve motor skills and hand-eye-movement. Kids learn to move their hands carefully and precisely in order to place the building blocks in a way that prevents the whole construction from crashing down. This requires patience and concentration skills. Building a construction further promotes spatial awareness and visual thinking. Children learn to think inside a three-dimensional space and start to understand distances and basic laws of physics. When the tower eventually does crash, kids are provided with a wonderful opportunity to learn how to cope with frustrating situations and discover ways to motivate themselves to start all over again and give it another try.
Playing together helps strengthen social skills
Toys that encourage kids to play together, can help them develop tolerance, patience as well as consideration and respect for others. Group play additionally helps them practice how to solve conflicts and how to come up with mutual agreements. An example for toys that stimulate social skills are all kinds of play figures with which children can act out every day situations using role play. During role play activities children often put themselves in someone else’s position by acting that they are another person. This stimulates various social skills, such as empathy and social sensitivity. This can be the doll-house family having a meal together or Lego figures on a treasure hunt behind the couch. Other typical toys that promote social skills are dolls. Here the child takes care of the doll, is worried about its wellbeing and imagines what the doll might need or want.
Better language acquisition through toys without noises and sounds
Less is often more. Toys without blinking lights or beeping sounds can positively influence the language acquisition and language skills. In this case it is up to the children to make the toys or figures speak and to give them a voice. When a child is given two dolls or other figures, he or she will automatically begin to bring them to life by initiating a conversation between the figures. If the figures were already making noises or sounds, it would be highly unlikely for the child to start being verbally active and imaginative during the play, apart from a possible imitation of the sounds.
Educational toys: subtle and versatile
To sum up, educational toys can be seen as ‘tools’ that inspire and encourage children to play in ways that promote important skills and abilities. This can be constructing and building, acting out role play, playing with another child or in a group. A subtle, minimalist design that allows versatile play further promotes creativity, independent thinking and imagination. Apart from all the benefits that educational toys have for children’s development, they are usually also a lot of fun to play with!