The list has been prepared and Santa is checking his bag.......just WHAT should be in Santa's sack to prepare children for the kindergarten classroom?
If a child's PLAY is his/her WORK, then we need to provide toys that offer the greatest learning opportunity.
Let's look at some important characteristics of educational toys (particularly for the birth-3 child):
1. 90% Child/10% Toy - When shopping for toys, always think about what the toy does for the child and what the child has to do to the toy. It is more beneficial for a child to have a simple toy that does very little for him/her than to have a toy that is laden with electronic appeal (lights, sounds). Toys that prepare a mind to problem-solve are toys that require the child to think. Open-ended toys allow the children to use their own creativity to bring meaning to the toy, rather than just responding to what the toy does for them.2. Multi-Sensory - There is direct correlation
to the number of senses a
manipulate toys, they engage both hemispheres of their brain and maximize the learning.
3. Age-Appropriate - Toys teach the most when they are introduced at the appropriate age. Look for toys that engage the child's sense, require creativity and produce success in their play. For example, if a shape sorter is too difficult for a child, put the sorter away and make one that is simpler (with 1-2 shapes only). Neural connections and confidence are built through repetition and success and perseverance, not from discouragement. Children are naturally motivated and will let you know when they need more challenge from their toys.
4. Promote Interaction - Toys that promote caregiver/child interaction are the most beneficial to a child's development. Stuffed animals or dolls offer a perfect opportunity to play "picnic" or "school." With adult interaction, the child can use his/her imagination to create a scenario with toys. The adults give guidance, serve as a consultant and enrich the play with language enhancement. When the child says "cup," the caregiver can say, "Yes, rabbit wants the tall, green cup." The adult also teaches the child empathy and appropriate social interaction.
Additionally, the adult stretches the child intellectually by teaching color concepts, number concepts and other intellectual concepts throughout the play.
Below is a list of optimal toys for a baby and toddler:
Toys with dimension
Pretend play toys (pretend telephone, pretend kitchen, etc...)
Toys that promote movement
Good luck shopping for toys that will teach and promote learning in your child. The neural pathways that are created early in life will be the ones that prepare the child the best for learning in the kindergarten classroom.