Educational play—and the true value of construction toys on a child’s development—will be something you hear a lot more about in the next few years
If you ask a young child to draw a picture it is always flat; there is no depth to the individual objects and there is no sense of proportion or depth of field. Why? Because their brains are not yet thinking in 3D.
The educational toy market is predicted to grow by 10 percent annually to 2021, according to market research firm Technavio1, with the fastest-growing sector of all expected to be those toys that focus on motor skills development, like building blocks and tiles.
Block and brick-based construction sets have been around for years, but recently there has been a boom in smart magnetic toys that use a combination of geometric shapes and strong neodymium magnets to enable children to get even more creative with their constructions.
They facilitate 3D brain training, speeding up the development of the young mind to move from flat 2D thinking to understanding three-dimensional objects.
It is important to fast-track 3D brain training through construction play for a child’s physical development and their emotional development. The additional creativity afforded by magnetic construction toys is a cornerstone of problem solving, as children are not locked into building one single model, but can repeatedly design and build their own structures.
While building structures, children's brains are constantly finding solutions for problems posed by balance, shape and weight. Emotionally and socially, they are beginning to appreciate life lessons like cause and effect, and developing coping mechanisms for failure and frustration, as well as appreciating and enjoying success.
Motor skills and hand-eye coordination are also being enhanced when playing with magnetic construction toys and the intellectual entertainment provided allows children to grow intellectually, nurturing both their creative and logical thinking.
Dr Amanda Gummer is the founder of Fundamentally Children, a UK-based team of professionals dedicated to promoting the value of play in healthy childhoods and compilers of the Good Toy Guide. She confirms: 'Constructive play teaches children spatial awareness and through processes like stacking, arranging and re-arranging, connecting and assembling they develop their mathematical language—using terms like "on top" "below" and "above".
'Through regular engagement with construction toys, children can solve problems, thinking creatively and logically.'
Medical evidence suggests a child’s brain in its early years is more malleable and capable of changing its structure depending on the activities they perform and experiences they encounter. Therefore, it is vitally important to present them with challenges even from an early age.
Professor Janet Eyre, a specialist in paediatric neuroscience at the Department of Child Health at Newcastle Royal Infirmary, told the BBC recently: 'Toys provide motivation and boost learning…the brain likes to do things so that it can learn.'
This belief is echoed by Professor Eric Knudsen, an expert in neurobiology from Stanford University, California, who said: 'Early learning can have long-lasting effects on the architecture of the brain.'
Creative magnetic construction toys are quickly growing in popularity, with widespread use in nurseries and pre-schools and in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 levels at junior schools.
Apart from the benefits of their construction applications, the contrasting colours in the toys are fascinating to young toddlers. The use of common geometric shapes such as squares, triangles, hexagons and pentagons aids early years mathematical learning through shape sorting, symmetry, looking at the properties of shapes and understanding the link between flat 2D ‘nets’ and their corresponding 3D versions.
By being exposed to various mental stimuli, children can develop a three-dimensional and multifaceted way of thinking which will put them in good shape for later life. This process of 3D brain training helps children develop cognitive skills including sensory development, modelling, creativity, curiosity, mathematical thinking, imagination, scientific thinking and reasoning.
1Source: Global Educational Toys Market 2017-2021, Technavio
Magformers is the global leader in magnetic construction toys. The strong magnets safely sealed in the edges of Magformers pieces rotate, so two pieces always connect when brought together. Sets are widely available from good toy shops and department stores. www.magformers.co.uk
Article by John Kelly, marketing director at Magformers UK Ltd and an award-winning journalist and editor.