Educational alternatives to annoying toys

Feb 14, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. ET

Do you have too many battery operated noisy toys in your house? Maybe it's time for a change. These educational and fun toys hold your child’s attention without over stimulating them and annoying you.

Toys that encourage fine motor skills

Toys that encourage the practice of fine motor skills are perfect and highly entertaining for young children. While the development of fine motor skills is enhanced naturally during meals and playtime, these toys make great alternatives to the annoying ones you might have around the house.

  • Toys like the Melissa and Doug Lace and Trace encourage fun in the form of shapes, patterns and colors all while promoting fine motors skills, perception and hand/eye coordination.
  • Lacing beads also enhance hand/eye coordination but allow children to play with and manipulate large wooden beads with different shapes and colors.
  • Activities like the ones on a latching board encourage learning through cause and effect while practicing fine motor skills with locks, latches and clasps. After the latches are opened, children can then open doors to reveal fun and interactive pictures.

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Toys that encourage coordination

Coordination naturally comes with age, but there are many toys and activities to help enhance the natural process of learning and practice through coordination-based toys. Puzzles and activities that require two hands and concentration as well as everyday tasks (getting dressed, clearing a table, etc.) help a child build coordination and independence with his imagination -- and without the use of loud, battery operated toys.

  • Activities like the Melissa and Doug Basic Skills Board allow children to practice everyday skills in a fun way. Curious children learn to zip, buckle, lace, snap and dress the bear just as they would themselves.
  • Play food that can be cut into pieces with a child-safe knife requires the use of two hands, which allows children to practice coordination and introduces basic math.
  • Wooden musical instruments may not be quiet toys, but batteries don't run them -- your child's movements do. The Plan Toy solid wood drum produces different notes when a child strikes different spots on the top of the drum. The drum's different notes, along with the movements of drumming, improves and develops coordination, special perception, fine motor skills and auditory nerves and encourages musical play.

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Toys that encourage problem solving

The act of sorting, stacking and finding a sequence during playtime helps children learn while finding rewarding outcomes all on their own. Because these activities have a built-in control of error, children learn how to problem solve through play.

  • Stacking with a graduated stacker helps children to learn shapes, sequence and colors while improving coordination.
  • Sorting is an interactive activity that encourages children to problem solve based on different shapes.
  • Counting comes naturally to young children, but there are fun and interactive toys to encourage simple math skills, color recognition and patterns. A wooden abacus is an educational toy that will grow with your child for many years -- and spare you the annoying sounds from a battery operated counting toy.

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