Educational toys used to have a reputation for being worthy but dull - not any more. The latest colourful exciting toys are tops with the kids and their parents.
There’s been a backlash against flashy, electronic toys which don’t have much education value, and a realisation that many traditional toys were popular for good reason—they teach motor skills, shape and colour recognition, and numeracy, as well as stimulating a child’s imagination and social development.
So though digital devices such as tablets offer many educational apps, old-fashioned games, puzzles and building toys are now back in favour, often using recycled materials, safe paints and safe-play designs to make them entertaining, educational and friendly to the environment.
Let’s have a look at some of our favourite categories of early years toys.
Colour and number cubes
The traditional colour cubes are inexpensive and help with shape, colour and size differentiation skills, basic counting, thinking ability and hand, eye and brain coordination. Look for types which are highly polished and coloured with safety paints.
Wooden cars and trucks with free-rolling wheels are suitable for children from nine months to four years old, and teach sensory, fine motor, gross motor, problem-solving, language, social and emotional skills.
From ages three to five, children will enjoy using large size easy-to-clean building blocks to develop counting skills, fine motor skills, and creative thinking. Some of the better known makes come in bright colours and have different elements such as windows and wagon bases. Make sure you get a storage box to pack them all away neatly at the end of the day!
One step up from the building block, preschool building sets on themes such as farms, trains and road layouts are compatible with basic blocks and offer much more potential for imaginative and group play
A kit of stencils and colourful pencils and paper will help kids make a start on creative drawing while making it easy to produce pleasing results. Look for sets made using non-toxic material free of the plastic component bisphenol a (BPA), where the carrying case doubles as a mini desk and travel case.
For older children, pocket puzzles can range from colour and shape sorting to geometric challenges, building puzzles, maze games, chase and escape activities, right up to travel games with magnetic boards and pieces and sophisticated IQ testers.
This feature was orignally published in the Autumn edition of Health Child with Dr Ranj Singh, which you can also read here