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Learning Through Play: The Wisdom of Educational Toys

By: MaryRose Cobarde Candare

Long before your child is big enough to leaf through the pages of a book or sit upright in front of a computer, he is already fit to learn – and learn he does. Toys that surround children make their own preschool.

It is no secret that babies are attracted to bright colors and toddlers are fascinated with moving objects. Parents may observe their kids’ eyes follow a cookie jar rolling on the kitchen floor or get attracted to medicine boxes and even specks of dirt on the floor. This leads some parents to thinking that just about any toy would do. But parents could think again with the advent of the so-called educational toys.

You might ask, “What makes a toy or any object for that matter educational?” Put in another way, what makes a shape sorter different from a plain rock or a piece of milk carton? Experts say the difference lies in how that toy promotes and enhances the developmental process in young children.

With the knowledge of the normal stages of biological growth [hand-eye coordination, psychomotor skills among others], experts believe that even toys should come on a certain schedule. Toy manufacturers then spend careful effort to ensure that the toy design is fitted to the capabilities of its user at any given stage thus the addition of recommended age on toy packages. When you see the sign “Not for children below 3” know that this is beyond ensuring that hazards related to small parts in certain toys are avoided. It also says that only children 3 or above can fully utilize and make the most of the learning potentials of the toy design. Age-appropriate toys ensure that the child can interact properly with the toy to develop certain skills such as, in the case of a shape sorter, color/shape familiarization. The goal is to allow a child to uncover his capabilities and enhance them. This is a progressive process and ideally ensures that toys do not get too boring for your child. Yes, children do quickly outgrow certain toys.

Seeing the instructional value of certain toys, one may then ask, “Who classifies toys as “educational”? Who decides the educational content or appropriateness of a certain toy for a certain age group? Independent groups of people from different backgrounds – scientists, educators, artists, librarians, parents and kids themselves make up toy evaluators. Organizations that employ evaluators choose them on the basis of their in-depth knowledge of toys coming from either a background on child development or involvement in the toy industry.

Evaluation programs among them the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, periodically hand out toy awards. Certain toys bear the label “seal of approval”. One may also find annual guides to highly-rated toys. Parents can make informed decisions on toys to purchase guided by reviews and ratings from toy experts who examine both the content of the toy or “curriculum value” as well as the skills they develop or “cognitive value”. More than just the development of the five senses, toys are judged on the basis of how they stimulate the brain and cultivate social, interpersonal skills.

In a nutshell, the basic thrust of educational toy manufacturers is that toys are teachers. Be it math, science, language, stories or the imagination, educational toys are the best testaments that learning is definitely fun.

 

MaryRose Cobarde Candare or MaryMom as she is fondly called by family and friends is a hands-on, working mother of 2 harmonizing her love for her children with her passion for writing and teaching as forms of service to others.

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