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A girl with Leapster


A girl with LeapPad

Educational toys, are typically built for and used by children. One could make the argument that an educational toy is actually any toy. Most children are constantly interacting with and learning about the world. This definition is ultimately too broad because one could make the same argument about a rock or a stick as it is not uncommon to see a child play with almost anything nearby.

The difference lies in the child's perception or reality of the toy's value. An educational toy should instruct, promote intellectuality, or emotional and/or physical development. An educational toy can teach a child about a particular subject or can help a child develop a particular skill. The key difference is the child's learning and development associated with interacting with the toy.

More toys are designed with the child's education and development in mind today than ever before. As parents and educators grow more sensitive to the real or perceived development needs of children, toy manufacturers seek to manufacture and market to these parents.

Wooden toys which tend to last for a long time serve to maintain interest and durability for the child especially if the toy becomes a favorite.

Educational toys in child development[edit | edit source]

As mentioned previously, educational toys enhance intellectual, social, emotional, and/or physical development. Educational toys are thus designed to encourage reasonable development milestones within appropriate age groups. For preschool age youngsters, simple wooden blocks might be a good starting point for a child to begin to understand causal relationships, basic principals of science (e.g. if a block falls from the top of a structure, it will fall until a surface stops its fall), and develop patience and rudimentary hand-eye coordination. For a child moving towards elementary school, other, more sophisticated manipulatives might further aid the development of these skills. Interlocking manipulative toys like Lego or puzzles challenge the child to improve hand-eye coordination, patience, and an understanding of spatial relationships. Finally, a child in elementary school might use very sophisticated construction sets that include moving parts, motors and others to help further understand the complex workings of the world. Importantly, the educational value derived by the child increases when the educational toy is age appropriate.

Educational toys in the classroom[edit | edit source]

Entering a classroom, whether one full of preschoolers or school age children, one has no doubt that educational toys are part of the modern educator's curriculum. From manipulatives, to dress up, to board games, to musical instruments, to interactive electronic toys such as robots or turtle roamers, the breadth of educational toys is vast. While it is not uncommon to find computers in the modern elementary school classroom, it is not yet common to find children actively engaged in video games for educational development. However, as computers and video games take an ever larger role in our lives and the lives of children, so too will their role in educational toys and games. This underscores a crucial point about the fluidity of the definition of an educational toy. As the perception of what is "educational" changes, so too will the integration of new toys into our children's classrooms.

Plato, the Greek philosopher, says in Laws:

"I'm going to explain how one should describe education: It is this I insist that man who intends to be good at a particular occupation must practice it from childhood both at work and at play he must be surrounded by the 'special tools of the trade.'
We should learn to use the children's games to channel their pleasures and desires towards activities in which they have to engage when they are adult..."

Examples[edit | edit source]

Examples include:

  • Building toys, such as toy blocks.
    • Automoblox wooden construction cars
    • Scale models
    • Model airplanes
    • Model railroads
    • Model cars and other vehicles
    • Animal replicas, such as the dinosaur-themed Carnegie collection
  • Toy musical instruments
    • Toy piano
  • Robot kits
    • Lego Mindstorms
    • qfix robot kit
    • Puzzles

See also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

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