Toys are more than just playthings.
And although most kids are generally happy when you hand them a toy to play with, parents should be particular about what toys they give children.
Let me explain:
Have you ever seen a child focus so hard to fit a square block into a square hole? Or have you witnessed the ecstatic expression of a kid when they peaked through a kids’ microscope for the first time?
Playing is not merely about jolly fun and mindless games. Playtime is serious business, and toys are the most crucial tools. As child psychologist, Vicki Panaccione, once noted:
"Toys should be thought of as developmental learning tools."
Here we’ll reveal which toys are the most beneficial for kids and break down how to use these toys to your child’s advantage.
How are toys helpful for children?
Toys offer much more incredible convenience than simply being a source of amusement for children.
In her research paper, How Do Today’s Children Play and with Which Toys?, Jasmina Klemenović revealed several uses of toys that we might overlook. First, according to her, most of today’s parents perform professional roles and so dedicate less time to their children. In this case, toys become compensatory means in exchange for their presence.
In addition to that, toys are a “primitive communication system” where children can freely express and communicate their innermost desires, wishes, dreams, and anxieties — things that are often left unsaid.
She added that most parents prioritize toys that add valuable knowledge to their kids. And toys are a function of a society’s culture and heritage. So naturally, a civilization that values learning shall also produce toys that transmit educational concepts to children — as observed with today’s most popular class of educational toys called “STEM toys.”
You might also be interested: How are microscopes helpful for children?
How to Use Toys to Your Child’s Advantage and Success?
There are two primary things you need to consider if you aim to maximize a child’s use of toys:
Buying the right kind of toys
Choosing the right toys for the right age
1. Start Investing in STEM/Educational Toys
What are STEM toys?
STEM toys are like any other toy. They’re fun to play with, and they let children engage in creative, open-ended play. But apart from their shared standard qualities with conventional playthings, STEM toys are also educational in nature. They are equipped to impart at least one of the four facets of STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
You might be interested: What Makes a Good STEM Toy for Children?
What are the advantages of STEM toys over conventional ones?
It’s easy to be skeptical when you learn there are toys capable of imparting educational concepts to kids. We've already uncovered whether STEM toys are effective or are marketing placebos in the past.
Although some companies oversell their promises, the truth is STEM toys are helpful to get kids thinking. Indeed not precisely to the point of transforming children into intellectual wonders, but enough to spark their wonderment to explore and understand the world a little better.
Here are other STEM toy advantages:
• Enhances their gross and fine motor skills
When children take apart toys and restore them like a puzzle, it helps reinforce their motor skills. Motor development is significant for children that are first learning mobility. There are tons of STEM toys that support this function while also teaching them the basics of counting, learning numbers, and alphabets.
• Increase their IQ and problem-solving skills
The main thrust of STEM toys is to sharpen a child’s cognitive abilities. That’s why STEM toys are typically more stimulating than regular ones. They present age-appropriate challenges to make children come up with solutions off-the-top, for example, in solving a Rubik’s cube. Engaging in such activities enhances their problem-solving and teaches kids to be resilient and not quit midway before coming up with sound solutions.
• Develop their social and emotional intelligence
As mentioned above, going through a hitch can be frustrating. So training kids to endure in the face of perplexing problems through STEM toys helps them keep emotions at bay and remain professional. Moreover, some STEM toys promote teamwork to build bridges that promote social relationships among kids and their peers.
• Improves their concentration
Nobody solves a problem when distracted. And STEM toys can help improve a child’s focus when they spend a larger chunk of time solving the problem presented during the playtime. This quality will be even more relevant in their academic years.
• Instill creativity and imagination
The beauty of open-ended STEM toys is that they enable children to think critically and creatively simultaneously. Toys that allow kids to build or explore are critical elements in unleashing the inner artists within them.
2) Select age-appropriate educational toys
The developmental needs of each person change as they grow older. So buying STEM toys is one thing, but purchasing STEM toys that keep in step with a child’s cognitive requirements is another.
P.S. Watch out for choking hazards!
Infant stage (1-12 months)
At this stage, babies are starting to figure out their 5 senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. So the toys must be geared towards sensory play.
Baby mobiles are enough for infants that still haven’t developed much mobility. This can help keep them occupied in the crib. But as infants start to show more active movements, introducing toys that aid in hand-eye coordination is splendid.
Around 4 months, they start grasping objects with their hands. At 6 to 7 months, infants can now transfer objects from one hand to another. While pincer grasping (the ability to hold an object using their thumb and index finger) occurs during the 9th to 10th month.
Best toys for infants:
Baby stage (12-24 months)
As they reach one year, babies often start walking, so new parents can expect active mobility. So securing their playroom with thick floor carpets and removing any sharp corners is advised.
Curiosity about their surroundings abounds at this phase, so every new color, sound, or texture is an exciting learning experience. Now, the learning is more aimed at teaching them cause-and-effect, spatial reasoning, and basic problem-solving.
Best toys for babies:
Toddler stage (2+ years)
During this stage, a toddler becomes increasingly aware of every object’s function. Stacking blocks and engaging in other motor skill-developing activities is beginning to solidify. More often, this marks the beginning of their pretend plays. Cognitive-reinforcing toys are also very much welcome for toddlers as their brain rapidly develops.
Best toys for toddlers:
Costume for pretend play
Basketball and hoop
More challenging shape stackers/sorters
Basic building kits
Preschool and school stages (4+)
A child’s imagination and creativity booms during their preschool and school stages. Although they’re well aware of objects’ functionalities, they can be crafty and repurpose their intended uses. For example, a blanket is treated like a tent, or a shoe can be a DIY walkie-talkie.
Schoolers can pretty much handle physical activities with ease at this point. And their hunger for cognition-stimulating toys is ever-increasing. So STEM toys are best introduced at this stage to induce their thoughts and senses.
Best toys for preschoolers/schoolers:
Card and board games
Arts & crafts tools
You might be interested: The Ultimate STEM toys buying guide
Don’t let their playtime go to waste!
Knowing the types of toys, they need for every pivotal stage in their lives can help maximize the amount of learning they should get at those points. And the best toys to get kids are STEM toys, as these promote at least one component under the STEM pedagogy.
If you’re looking for a splendid STEM toy for your preschooler, we have one for you. The STEMscope kids’ microscope is an excellent tool for kids that love the cozy indoors and the great outdoors. It’s a pocketable handheld microscope that can support their curiosities whenever, wherever.
Feel free to learn more about the STEMscope and check out our other science gadget collection!