The Importance of Educational Toys in Early Years
Why are Educational Toys important in Early years?
There is plenty of research and studies which show the importance of play in early childhood. Play is crucial to development as it is a big part of cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children (Ginsberg, 2007). According to Shonkoff and Phillips (2000) play fosters healthy development of the brain; and enables children to explore, investigate, interact with, and understand the world around them. Play also helps children to take risks, build new competency skills, develop resilience, acquire problem-posing and problem-solving skills, critical thinking, practice decision-making, and be the agent of learning.
‘The Play Observation Scale’ by Rubin (2001) proposes a comprehensive and hierarchical arrangement of cognitive play behaviors that are defined as follows:
The integral relationship between play and learning in early childhood makes it imperative that your little one’s environment should be set with the right resources to make it rich enough to support and enhance learning. Toys play a vital role in enriching play, by allowing children to think, explore, create and imagine. It also encourages fantasy play and meaningful interaction among children ( Kara et al., 2013). Children use toys and objects to entertain and engage themselves by engaging in role-play, expressing their feelings and emotions and educating themselves as they explore the world around them.
Here are some of the most important benefits of toys in child development and learning:
Toys nurture children’s creativity and create infinite possibilities for children to think and be creative. Having open-ended toys in their learning environment enables children to explore, learn, create, fail, try and persevere.
Toys help in building fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination in children. As children maneuver and manipulate toys, they simultaneously fine tune their motor skills, as they constantly use their hands and body to move, hold, pull, push, grab, throw and handle these toys.
Playing with toys gives children opportunities to connect, interact and be aware of one’s emotions and feelings. They may learn to be responsible too as they begin to take care of their toys. Toys also can provide a way for children to express their feelings and share things that could be bothering or troubling them.
As children engage themselves in role-play, pretend play or dramatic play, they are learning about the world around them. They learn to associate, negotiate, collaborate, cooperate, listen, share, and take turns, as they work together with their friends, siblings, parents, grandparents and others.
The ways children learn to work with a variety of toys enable them to use their thinking skills. In doing so, they develop their problem-solving skills and critical thinking. As they solve puzzles, build with blocks or sort shapes, they are reasoning logically and thinking laterally.
As children interact and play with toys, it can open doors to express their ideas, thoughts and feelings. This can further aid in building vocabulary and communication skills.
Toys provide a platform for children to explore STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Game-based experiences may encourage children to acquire knowledge and offer a rich context that allows children to reinforce and consolidate their knowledge through practice. Exploring and working with blocks supply a good game-based learning tool (Yanyan et al., 2016).
However, the greatest challenge for everyone is choosing the best educational kits for kids - ones that are educative, intuitive, easy to use, fun and also age- appropriate. Keeping in mind the principles of child development and the purpose of play, one should be intentional while selecting educational toys to cater to the needs and interests of a child and ensure that they do not overwhelm your little ones.