Every parent wants his child to meet his full potential. You can aid this process by providing your child with educational toys that stimulate him. A child's most important job is to learn about the world through play. The toys with which he plays can either mindlessly entertain him or teach him about how and why things work the way they do.
- Keep in mind that many everyday items can be fascinating and educational for a child. A set of measuring cups and a sink full of water can teach your child about more and less, bigger and smaller, fractions, addition and subtraction, as well improve his fine motor skills. A bunch of metal pots and wooden spoons can be a lesson in sounds and rhythms. The simple act of helping you cook a meal can incorporate math, reading, following directions and working together. Even a box full of old clothes, scarves and hats can be a learning experience for your child.
- When buying new toys for your child, consider your child's temperament. A board game can be a great learning experience, but if your child would rather run and jump, you'll probably both end up frustrated and unhappy. Instead, try a more active toy, such as building blocks or Legos.
- There are excellent computer games available that teach in such a fun way, your child will never know he's learning. The Learning Company has several software titles that are both fun and educational, such as "Arthur's Reading Games" and two classics, the Reader Rabbit series and the Jump Start series. Both of these series have multiple titles geared to different ages and skills. Use computer games in moderation, however. Children shouldn't spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen, which includes both TV and computer time.
- To build your child's vocabulary and improve spelling skills, play fun games, such as Boggle and Scrabble. There are junior versions of each game available for younger children.
- Jigsaw puzzles are an excellent way to develop problem-solving skills and pattern recognition. They are also a great way to spend quality time together as a family.
- There are many websites devoted to identifying and selling educational toys. You can usually sort the toys by age and category, so you're sure to find exactly what you're looking for. Two websites to try are DiscoveryToysInc and LittleSmarties.
- Retail toy stores are also a great source of educational toys. Stores such as FAO Schwartz and Toys R Us have sections devoted to toys that teach. Another source of educational toys that is often overlooked is the gift shop of children's museums. If your child is especially interested in a certain exhibit at your favorite museum, check the gift shop to see if they have a toy related to his interest.
- Role-playing and pretend play are also vitally important to little ones. Play kitchens, workshops and houses all teach children about the roles we play.
No matter which toy you choose, remember that if it isn't fun, your child won't play with it. It doesn't really matter how educational a toy is if it just sits on a shelf all the time. Choose toys that are durable, age-appropriate and enjoyable, and you'll be amazed at what your child learns!