Can Any Toy Be an Educational Toy?
Recent years have seen a serious growth in the concept of learning toys and educational toys aimed at infants and toddlers. The idea that a baby is a clean slate and can learn quickly has gendered all sorts of new toys, from Baby Einstein to Yookidoo. Although educational toys are typically built for and used by children, it may be fair to say that almost any toy can be a learning toy because there are things to be absorbed from all of life's experiences.
After a baby is born, there continues to be a building of important brain cell connections and the introduction of stimulants like sound, color, touch and toys greatly enhances that development. Still, the most important stimulus is human interaction. Touching, holding, singing, talking and playing are the foundation stones of development. Babies who have no human interaction, according to a study done many years ago in Europe, have retarded development and in some cases, even die. Having baby toys for a newborn may not be necessary, but within several weeks the baby's interest will be piqued by toys that can be grabbed or clutched. Lightweight rattles and teething rings of non-toxic material continue to be the best for babies until they are around six months old. Ankle and wrist rattles are amusing and entertaining for babies, and they have the added benefit of eliminating the need to pick up toys that are tossed over the edge.
The Sound of Music
Music is probably the most consistent learning toy around. When babies are tiny infants, music soothes them, often enabling them to go to sleep. Upbeat music and a little dance around the room with mom or dad (or a grandparent) becomes a fun learning game for an infant. Laughter and bouncing result from this kind of interaction. Young infants learn music quickly and can differentiate music from speaking very early in their development. Norman Weinberger, a cognitive sciences and psychology professor at the University of California at Irvine, says in one study, babies as young as four months old seemed to know when researchers played the "Happy Birthday" song incorrectly.
Discovery Toys - Solid, Sturdy & Educational
Theoretically, an educational toy should educate, and even though most toys can help a child learn, a learning toy should instruct, stimulate and promote development - intellectually, physically, or emotionally. Discovery toys, a home-party style toy distributor with 32 years of history, makes some outstanding learning toys for infants and toddlers. Hammer Away, a compact and sturdy colorful boat, gives baby the ability to color-match balls to openings at the top of the boat and then the baby can hammer the balls through the boat until they wind their way out into the waves. Hand-eye coordination and a great way to burn off some energy are two of the benefits of this creative learning toy. A baby of one year old can manage it and often will play with this toddler toy for several more years.
Award Winning Toys
The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Awards are very prestigious and are presented to companies that build learning toys that have a great educational impact upon children. One such award winning learning toy was created by the Little, Little, Little Toy Co., and it is called My First Kitchen. This toy is for babies and toddlers between the ages of one and three and it's amazing. It's a complete kitchen that is filled with fun features - like pots that rattle when they are shaken and flashing lights on the stove when the baby fries an egg. The toaster will pop up when the toast is pushed down and another button will make the washing machine spin. Little ones can be like mommy, and will copy what they see with their own little kitchen.
Preschoolers and Electronics
As a child progresses toward preschool age, learning toys become a bit more sophisticated. By this time, they have developed hand-eye coordination that allows for handing electronic learning toys. Speak & Spell, Speak & Read, and Speak & Math are all electronic learning toys that are geared to preschoolers. Preschool learning toys include construction toys like Lego and Meccano, both designed to help children with tactile skills, coordination, and imagination as they build whatever they can create in their minds.
More than ever before, children's toys are designed with education and development in mind. Toy manufacturers are doing their best to tap into the real and perceived needs parents have for their children's development and the results are often exemplary.