Help you children succeed in school and life through having the right types of toys and encouraging better ways to play with them. Really? Yes! Really. Toys can help children’s brains and bodies develop, and in the process, they end up happier, smarter and set to succeed.
Doing this doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it require a ton of research (I did this for you). Long and short of the ‘why’ is that kids brains develop super quickly and it’s best to balance out the kinds of growth so that they’re not weak in some areas and overly strong in others. Hear me out before you say I don’t want to squash my child’s spirit or limit what he can play with…neuroplasticity (flexible connections in the brain) will allow a child’s spirit to thrive because they’ll think faster which fosters better decisions and increased creativity. Check out my ending clinical links for a deeper dive if you’re interested.
Hmm you’re thinking…does this mean I need to have only educational, specialized toys? And if not, how in the heck does Barbie help? My instinct was to avoid/get rid of the commercial toys like Barbie but as I researched more I wasn’t so sure. As an example, love or hate Barbie & her body image issues aside, playing with dolls does foster imagination and the tiny little clothes are major fine motor skill boosters. So, before you toss out what you think might be “bad” toys, check out the kinds of toys that matter and why below.
There are a variety of ways to view this but for me, it made most sense by breaking it down by (a) what you want to foster and (b) what the key development areas are. The Harvard Medical School blog* called out that toys should encourage 3 things: imagination & be multi-use, interaction especially with parents/caregivers, movement/physical fitness. K, perfect logic and starting point.
Now, with what we’re trying to encourage in mind, what’s the right mix of toys? These 7 categories foster a well-rounded exposure & development by offering a cross section of the key learning skills:
- Building: blocks, Magnatiles, Legos, Lincoln logs, trains (track building)
- Literacy: letter games (like Leapfrog), flashcards
- Science/Engineering: experiment kits, Rain Sticks, cause & effect toys, mechanical, wind up robots, marble runs, many outdoor games
- Manipulatives: beads, pop beads + connection toys, sorters, Lite Bright, melting beads
- Dramatic/Imaginative: dress Up clothes & shoes, Grocery Store, Kitchen, dolls and action figures, doctor kits
- Math: counting, shapes, sorting, abacus, nesting dolls, stackers, puzzles, most board games
- Art: crayons, paint, play doh, markers, stickers
Oh boy, you’re thinking…yet another area where I’m failing my kids or how complicated do I need to make this?
Basically, just do the best you can in a moderate amount of time to tweak what you have and your child’s amazing developing brain can easily catch up in any less developed areas so don’t stress it. This is not a failure thing at all—it’s a maximize/encourage thing. Just use the above categories to help you guide future purchases and try to create a more balanced learning play system.
You can certainly take this to an extreme and go bananas if you really want to fine tune your assortment, but instead I’d recommend shooting for a simple, fairly modest assortment. Then get by in from kids, your spouse as well as folks like caregivers and grandparents (who give lots of gifts).
Another great tip is to have a toy rotation system.
Mommy Wars Avoidance Note: You’ve surely discovered that there’s LOTS of judgement out there in the Mom world about toys and things like Barbies, weapons, electronics. Some folks follow Waldorf and other Montessori and others are more free range &/or support electronic usage to further kids computer skills. Remember, no right or wrong, one size fits all here. The above categories work well for pretty much any parenting, toy choice style and focusing on creating your best system that’s also well rounded between the learning areas is what matters. Realize that regardless of toy choices, parents have positive intentions when it comes to their kids so it’s best to reign in judgments.
More sources of info:
- *The Harvard Medical School blog
- Impact Toys Have on Development
- Toys Impact Child Development discusses brain development and toys to avoid as well as stereotype encouragement
- Toys by Age
- What is brain plasticity and what is it so important?
Featured Photo by Angela Carlyle