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How to Choose Good Learning Toys

Present only a few toys at a time so that your child is not overwhelmed and can really
connect and develop an attention span playing with those toys.

stuffedanimals  Sometimes less is more  dollsinbed

Good toys make children feel good about themselves.
feedingdoll Young children love to imitate adults. This little boy owns
one special doll that is his "baby" to take care of and love
just as he is loved. Imaginary play teaches children about
the many roles they will have throughout their lives. Other
"pretend toys" that promote coordination include toy
musical instruments, tools, cooking utensils, telephone,
cash register and gardening supplies.

Good toys are fun even when used repeatedly. They have lasting power.
popuppalsThe Pop-Up Pals toy is very exciting to this toddler.  He has
learned that pushing the button will make the head pop up.
This is similar to the anticipation and joy experienced when
winding up a Jack in the Box. But here we have three different
heads popping up, so he has choices and he is learning about 
the spatial relationship of the three push buttons positioned
left to right. Motor movements: reaching, pushing the buttons
and playing with the figures develops strength and coordination. 

Good toys encourage creativity and  imagination.
archeryA toy archery set or in this case a bow made from a stick and string encourages
the child to pretend. This little boy made his own target and the arrow is a  straw.

Good toys can be used in different ways as the child grows older.
stackedblocksBlocks can be stacked into a tower, lined up or built into structures. Some blocks make
sounds; others connect to form a picture. Babies like to bang blocks together. Older
children can put blocks into alphabetical order. Very large blocks or boxes develops
gross motor skills; whereas stacking smaller blocks develops arm and hand control. 
blockpyramidtenBlocks pyramids teach a child about
spatial relationships,
balance and develop
arm control.

These picture blocks are arranged like a puzzle to make a
picture like the model on the left.

Click on picture to see larger image.

Good toys and games for older children encourage cooperative play and social interaction.
forwardpassThe game Forward Pass, also called Zoom Ball requires two children to play
together. Each child grasps two handles. When when they spread the arms
apart the ball zooms to the other player. In this case, the toy was made out
of two soda bottles inserted into one another, rope and handles made out of
laundry bottles.  The movements are great for strengthening shoulders and visual attention
as the ball shoots back and forth.  Other games that promote social interaction include: air
hockey, catch, Frisbee, Scratch ball and most board games. Click on picture above for
detailed pictures to make this toy.
Good toys make your child curious and want to learn more.boobytrap                                                       
The Booby Trap game involves removing different sized discs from
the trap without disturbing the spring bar. The player must analyze
where the stress points are. There is strategy involved in deciding
whether or not to attempt removing the disc or to pass. Players take
turns removing pieces and then add up the points; gaining more
points for removing larger discs and less points for removing smaller
discs. Other good games involving strategy and coordination include:
Jenga, Pick-Up Sticks, Barrel of Monkeys, marbles, Operation and Jacks. 
Good toys develop coordination and strength.
tinkertoyUsing Tinker Toys and rubber bands this boy made a machine that rolls.
Connecting the parts develops strength and eye-hand coordination.
Construction toys such as  Llegoes, K'nex and  Bristle blocks can be used
in an unlimited variety of ways depending on the child's age and ability.
These toys encourage sustained attention in order to complete a project
to be proud of.

Good toys are attractive, pleasing to touch and may make pleasant sounds.
magnettoysThese magnetic blocks feel good when placed together and pulled apart. They
fit comfortably in the child's hands. They are creative and versatile. They don't
make any obnoxious sounds and are attractive colors. Other attractive toys
include: soft puppets, foam puzzles, bubbles, baby rattles with soft textures
and sounds, wind up tub toys, play dough and tools.

Good toys are durable and  safe.
keystoyToys with small parts will usually say that they are meant for children over
the age of three years. Good toys do not have sharp points and are nontoxic
if consumed. This toy, Keys of Learning requires the child to match the key
color to shape, turn the key to remove the shape above and place the shape
in a small board on top. Other games that teach concepts and  develop
coordination include: shape sorters, puzzles, dressy dolls, nesting cups,
stencils, numbered peg boards, lacing boards and numerous arts and crafts.
 Click on photo to see larger image.

Good toys do not have to be expensive nor complex.
typingYoung children love many household objects like banging on pots and
pans, stacking plastic containers and pressing the keys on a typewriter
or piano. 

Other inexpensive simple toys include newspaper, paper bags, tape,
crayons, old greeting cards, a beach ball, bubbles, tape, glue, play
dough and soapy water with empty shampoo bottles to squirt. Time
honored games such as cards, Dominoes, Bingo and Checkers are
inexpensive and have withstood the test of time. Children can make
their own homemade versions of each of these games.

Good games teach turn taking, following directions and strategy. Games can also reinforce reading and
math concepts while having fun. Many card and board games develop these skills.                               
twocardpilesYoung children can sort cards into black and red piles.

fourcardpileOlder children can sort into four piles of  suits-
hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs...

cardpilesor into piles of numbers and pictures.

Good toys are right for the child's age; not too hard, not too easy, interesting, versatile and challenging.
cubeoneten                                                cubefourten                                          cubefivetwenty                                                                                                                                                               

©2008 Barbara Smith  

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