There are many different toys that encourage children to learn. But when looking for toys that promote learning through play, it’s important to select a variety of toys that stimulate your child’s senses and spark the imagination.
A wide-open space is nature’s way of teaching children through exploring and hands-on learning. An outdoor environment can also help with relaxation, focus and clearing the mind to allow for other learning opportunities. If you notice your child getting frustrated with an activity or getting antsy indoors, take the play outside or change to an outdoor activity to avoid potential negative behaviors and get a little break.
Playing with balls not only encourages attention and activity, it enhances hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. You can toss, roll or hide outdoor balls, and if your child is learning or not able to catch a ball just yet, the Easy-Catch Playballs (LakeshoreLearning.com, $50 for a set of four) are perfect for small hands, promote positive encouragement and help build confidence.
Kicking is a natural response when it comes to kids and balls and helps to improve balance and coordination. Heavier balls like the ones in the BeginAgain Kickin’ Putt Game (REI, $30) allow younger children to have better control of the ball and the included disk can be used to hold the ball in place or as a goal or marker to get the ball to.
Practice balance and coordination with activities like the Balancing Ball Game (LakeshoreLearning.com, $17). The built-in control of error allows young children to accomplish the activity while practicing balance, coordination and concentration. Activities that strengthen coordination and concentration also work to build cooperation as they likely come with rules or instructions.
Learning life lessons through play
A child 5 years of age and younger grows and changes at a very fast pace. Introduce your child to pretend play and you might be surprised how they take to it. Pretend play can be in the form of dressing up, playing with a dollhouse or having a tea party. The Otter Tea Set (Amazon, $25) brings a guest to the tea party and when you introduce water, your child can practice pouring “tea” for herself, the otter and you.
Pretend play can be instantaneous and created through make-believe stories while in the car, playing at home or through role-playing stories. Role-playing stories can become part of your daily conversation and help young children learn about (and learn how to express) their different emotions. Visual aids like the Moods and Emotions Book Set (LakeshoreLearning.com, $24) can be used for reading time or can provide parents with ideas when making up stories and act as guidance and reminders while playing together. Role-playing by using real-life examples and examples of emotions can ease a child’s fear, help with stressful situations and encourage positive behaviors in stressful or hectic times.
Young children love to help, love to make their parents proud and relish in feeling accomplished. Instead of causing arguments, frustration or tense situations in moments while cleaning the house or preparing a meal, include your child in the process. Young children love to mimic their parent’s actions and help when they can. The Super Housecleaning Set (LakeshoreLearning.com, $40) resembles and is built to look like and perform just like Mom and Dad’s cleaning essentials.
The importance of multi-sensory stimulation
Parents sometimes wonder why a young child will become frustrated, cranky or aggressive after a period of time, but what they don’t realize is that these feelings and quick changes of emotions could be brought on by overstimulation.
How to stimulate a child’s senses:
- Take a break from the electronic toys.
- Play with toys that stimulate all of your child’s senses (look for toys with different textures, shapes, weights, sounds, etc.).
- Experience hands-on learning activities.
- Get down to your child’s level and get involved with playtime.