As a toddler, your child would have enjoyed playing with stuffed toys, teethers and squeakers. But now that he has grown up into a preschooler, it is time for you to get him toys that are more educative in nature. Such toys play a significant role in laying the foundations for several important skills. So, remember that your choice of toys will determine your child's learning to a great degree.
However, understanding which toys to buy from the plethora of options available in the market can be a daunting task. To help you with this all-important task, here are some pointers.
Before buying a toy, check if it meets the following criteria:
1. Helps learn skill-based activities
Educational toys can be classified into various categories based on the skills they help learn. Some of the skills that your child can learn with the help of toys are:
- Memory skills
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills
- Sports skills
- Musical skills
- Language skills
- Artistic skills
- Logical thinking and problem-solving skills
A preschooler should have a variety of experiences. So, try to buy toys that help her learn the maximum number of skills from those listed above. However, if you observe that she enjoys a particular kind of activity more than the others, you can get her more of those toys that help her do her favourite activity.
Also, while buying toys, do not let preconceived notions based on gender stereotypes affect your decisions.
2. Encourages imagination and creativity
Go for toys that help your child engage in pretend play or prompt him to think and be imaginative. Make sure that the toys you get are visually appealing, so that they capture your child’s imagination. Also, the toys should help your child do activities that are exciting and interesting. Nowadays, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits are available which help children make their own toys. DIY puppet sets, jewellery sets, and various other types of craft kits are great options to buy for preschoolers.
3. Keeps him active and engaged for a long time
To make sure that your child does not grow tired or bored of playing with a particular toy, buy toys that can be used in different ways. Such toys are called open-ended toys. Examples include construction sets that can be used to make new structures every time, or play dough that can be used and reused in different ways. Even simple and inexpensive toys like mini models of animals and means of transportation can be great playthings. You can craft a zoo, forest, farmhouse and different models of roadways and place the animal models as a part of the landscape. Open-ended toys offer options for your child to unleash his creativity and can also be used as tools to teach various concepts about the world around them.
While buying toys, also consider buying those that can be used for a long term. For instance, musical toys such as a mini piano which your child can use to learn music lessons for the next few years.
4. Is age-appropriate
Remember, toys are meant to add fun to childhood, and, therefore, should be enjoyable, and not stressful or boring. The tasks your preschooler can accomplish with the toys should neither be too difficult nor too simplistic. Just as you cannot expect your preschooler to solve a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, a 4-piece one may not prove to be engaging either. Also, make sure that the toys do not emphasise any negative stereotypes or are inappropriate for children.
5. Involves interaction with a parent or other children
While buying toys for your preschooler, do not think only in terms of academic skills. Choose toys that will help learn important life skills such as collaborative skills. After all, learning to communicate and cooperate with others is an important part of a child's education. This is crucial in today's times when constant engagement with technology is threatening to create an overly individualistic society. Good old board games like Ludo, and Snake and Ladders that involve two or more players are quite popular across age groups and you can introduce them to your preschooler. Such games serve multiple purposes such as teaching basic mathematical concepts as well as important life skills like developing patience, decision making, winning and losing graciously, and so on.
With these pointers, you should be able to make the right choice of toys for your little one. As you gift your child with a wonderful collection of playthings, also remember to gift him something more precious – your company while he is at play!
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