Toys for learning are not only about fun, but they inspire kids to discover how things work, explore the world around them, and they put the foundations into place for the answers to all those endless questions about how the world works.
Kids toys for learning not only foster imagination, they also provide exposure to a very wide range of knowledge, whether it be literacy and numeracy, spatial, scientific or nature related.
There are so many educational toys to choose from – these are just a few types that we really like and have used with our children!
Wobble Boards (or balance boards) are such a simple idea and yet they are great for your child’s mind and body awareness, and their imagination!
A wobble board can not only be used to develop balance, but it can also be a stool, a see-saw, a bridge, a bed – your child will come up with so many imaginative ways to use it!
Children will find so many creative uses for a wobble board you’ll be surprised how engaging such a simple thing can be. And your child will be expending some of that endless energy through physical activity too.
We’ve always been great fans of magnetic toys. Children are just fascinated by magnets and magnetic toys foster an early interest in science concepts.
Magnetic toys come in so many forms – from wooden magnetic puzzles to building shapes that also introduce concepts of geometry. They are great for hand-eye coordination and also encourage problem solving skills.
We’ve been building on our magnetic set for some time now and the kids are building amazing things – magnets are so much fun!
What better way to develop visual motor skills and manual dexterity than with an Activity Board? These are sometimes also called Busy Boards or Sensory Boards – and they will keep your child engrossed whilst also learning spatial and dexterity skills.
Activity boards are many and varied, but all of them are designed to give your child exposure to small, sometimes complicated manual handling tasks that also require problem-solving. They are so much fun to play with – and your child is learning without even realising!
We have found lap-size Activity Boards are great for keeping children well occupied in the car whilst traveling long distances. And these are not just for toddlers – we’ve seen 10 year old children and adults playing with them too!
Literacy & Numeracy Toys
Of course, we all need to learn reading and numeracy! We always use flash cards with our children from an early age, also match-up cards, blocks and puzzles.
Literacy & Numeracy toys are essential to establish the basics with your child before they start school, and every time they play is another lesson learned. It’s so wonderful to see the mystery of letters and numbers suddenly fall into place in your child’s mind!
Some of the best toys for literacy and numeracy are Montessori-style toys. These toys are designed to stimulate the child into logical thought and independent discovery.
Dr. Maria Montessori said: “Nothing goes into the mind that does not first go through the hands.”
Montessori educators believe that children develop the visual and cognitive skills to recognise and articulate phonetic letters before they develop the manual skills to “draw” them. The Montessori Moveable Alphabet is used to help develop these skills – the Moveable Alphabet consists of individual wooden letters that can be placed in order to ‘build’ phonetic words.
The Montessori philosophy also says that children are naturally drawn to mathematical activities in an effort to understand the world.
Montessori Number Rods introduce your child to the visual quantities 1-10 and their corresponding number names. Through exploration, your child also develops concepts in sequence of number, combinations of 10 and basic arithmetic.
A similar numeracy set are Cuisenaire Rods – I used these to learn fundamental numeracy when I was a child. They were developed in the 1950s and they are experiencing a resurgence in popularity!
Cuisenaire Rods are a collection of coloured wooden rods of different, yet related sizes, with each rod representing a number from 1-10. The rods help to give your child a visual and physical size to the relationship between number and allows them to visual the results.
These are great for preschoolers and older children to learn the concepts of mathematics, counting and fractions, and also help develop fine motor skills and logical thinking.
What are some of the educational toys you use? We would love to hear your ideas so we can use them too!