• Jessica Frost

Buying Educational Toys

What makes you buy certain toys for your kids and why is thinking about what you buy important? It's well documented that when children play they are learning! While playing children have the opportunity to practise many skills and competencies including creative thinking and problem solving. Having open-ended toys (toys that there isn’t one right way to play with them) is important because they allow kids to engage in play that gives them the opportunity to explore their natural curiosity. This monochrome tunnel from Grimm's is an excellent example of a toy that can be played with over and over, in many different ways. Nicky used the wooden semicircles (there are a variety of sizes) to build a "train tunnel" and a "bridge" for his car. As I watched him do this, I started to ask him questions such as, “Can you make your car go over the bridge?” This resulted is a conversation that had us talking about positional language (up, down, under, over, turn, forwards and backwards). This not only helps build basic spatial relationships but is also introducing him to the beginning language of coding. So why teach these math concepts through play and not a worksheet? Research shows that, when children are playing, they are in an “active, alert, and focused state of mind that is conducive to learning” (The Kindergarten Program, Ontario, 2016). I’m pretty sure that a worksheet with a person hiding behind a tree wouldn’t have engaged this preschooler, nor yielded a deep understanding of spatial relationships.

So when buying toys, I usually ask myself the following 3 questions to make sure it’s an effective learning tool:

1. Does it encourage open-ended play? 2. Does it foster STEM skills (e.g., building, creativity)? 3. Does it allow children to ask questions, test theories and solve problems?

Happy Shopping!

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