This week is Black Friday, and if you’re one of the early and expert shoppers amongst us, you might be looking forward to finishing up your holiday shopping before noon on Friday. Picking out children’s toys can be pretty challenging. You don’t want to be the lame aunt/uncle that hands out “fun” science project kits to your nieces and nephews, but you also don’t want to contribute to the plethora of loud, battery operated toys that do nothing to aid kids’ development (and do everything to drive their parents insane).
Educational toys have always been a hot topic, and the recent release of GoldieBlox’s holiday commercial exemplifies the recent discussion surrounding these toys: are certain toys too boy-centric? Well, GoldieBlox hype aside, there are many toys out there that promote spatial skills, gross and fine motor skills, as well as problem solving and creative thinking, for kids of either gender. Here’s some ideas to get the kids in your life learning as they play:
Blocks, Gear Sets, Lego Duplos or similar building toys. Kids love building, and building in turn helps develop spatial awareness and reasoning, and depending on the size of the blocks, gross or fine motor skills. The creativity kids show when building can be incredible. For gender neutral options, look beyond Legos: there are many brightly colored, plastic building sets that are completely gender neutral.
Puzzles. These toys are great for developing hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem solving, and cognitive skills for all ages (including adults!). This is a skill that can grow with your child, since puzzles come in every level of difficulty.
Board Games. Games like Zingo! promote literacy by incorporating text with pictures. Well-loved games like Hi-Ho Cherry-O! promote fine motor, color matching, and counting. Educational games like The Ladybug Game teach facts while still being lighthearted and fun. All games teach social skills like patience and taking turns, and are guaranteed to provide great conversational opportunities about topics like cheating and good sportsmanship. It’s never too early to play board games!
A Ball. What may be the oldest toy of all time can still aid development in significant ways at any stage of childhood. Soccer balls, kickballs, beach balls, basketballs; you name it, it’s educational. Infants and toddlers can develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. When children begin to walk and run, balls help with gross motor skills such as kicking, throwing, catching, etc. Ball games also help teach social skills and problem solving skills as kids play together. Yet another benefit is that ball games, like board games, are great for intergenerational play.
Dramatic Play Toys. Though many dramatic play products cater to girls and “housekeeping,” dramatic play is just as beneficial to boys and shouldn’t be ignored. Dramatic play develops imagination, creativity, social/emotional skills, motor skills, cognitive skills (imagination and recreating scenes from their lives is abstract thinking), and language as children play together and communicate.
These toys may not be the ones that top Christmas lists, but they will stand the test of time and soon be incorporated into all kinds of play while sneakily developing all sorts of important skills. Happy shopping!
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