The Paramount Importance of Toys in Learning
- Jul 11, 2015
We often have optical illusions, which temporarily change the way we perceive. A slick rope-like object may appear as a snake or a set of furniture inside a dark room might appear as a silhouette of a person.
Such perceptions don’t always owe to illusion. At times, we deliberately apply anthropomorphic qualities to objects around us. We do that because our subconscious mind notes down similarities between the object and us, human beings.
Toys are anthropomorphic. And they are exclusively for kids. Kids love playing with them, bonding with them, and even interacting with them. It works like a charm for us adults too. We know a toy is a lifeless entity, but subconsciously we discriminate between a toy and a microwave.
Remember Chuck Noland from “Cast Away (2000)” and his Wilson?
Kids and Their Toys
A kid’s personality is completely different from that of an adult. He doesn’t know a thing about the world. His mind is a piece of paper with no scratch on it. Whatever he learns from the environment around him makes a permanent space in him. Scrubbing it off in later stages of his life is nearly impossible.
Playing excites him more than everything else.
Playing with toys?
We adults have a bad habit; we undermine several things that kids love and want us to do. Those things could be utterly important in his development. Only a child psychologists can explain to us how a child’s personality develops and the role of childhood activities and interaction in it.
Playing with toys is one of those activities. Toys make kids become:
- more interactive
All these have paramount importance in his transformation into an adult. Parents, therefore, should never discourage a kid from playing with toys. They should rather become a part of it. They can give kids play-related instructions, and introduce them to new ways of playing with toys. Just as the kid becomes receptive to those instructions, they can enclose them with educational resources.
This way toys will start to aid a child’s learning.
Toys and Childhood Development
The childhood is defined in terms of emotional and psychological development. One phase of development is replaced by the next. The following two factors make the development invisible to us:
- Since the child interacts differently with us, we fail to apprehend those phases.
- Unlike an adult, a child often doesn’t feel the need to respond.
So, don’t expect the child to articulate why he likes toys and what changes playing with them is bringing in him. It’s you, who’d have to fathom those changes.
Normally, playing with toys account for the following developments in a child.
- Sensory perception development
- Muscle development
- Social skills development
- Intuitive and intellectual development
Toys, custom-built for sensory perception development include, among others:
- Touch rings
- Balls with rattle
- Pram chain
- Play dough
For developing social skills, an educator can rely on toys like photo slippers, bouncing balls, dress-up clothes, and others. Not all toys strengthen the creative and intellectual faculties in kids. The ones that do are crayons, paints, craft kits, art toys, building toys, and Rubik’s cube.
Toys in the Classroom
As soon as early childhood is over, parents enroll their kids in schools. True, the unschooling movement has been gaining momentum, but most parents still prefer sending their children to schools, because of the specialized care they receive there.
In the classroom too, toys can functions as useful resources for education. Give a quick glance at the benefits of toys in a classroom:
- Toys can function as learning instruments.
- Toys foster interaction between children.
- Playing with toys can reveal several characteristic details of a child, which helps the teacher assess him.
Surprisingly, even the fields that pertain to hardcore science can make use of toys and facilitate learning. One such field is chemistry. Toys, such as Happy Birds, Hand Boilers, Shrinky Dinks, and so on can make chemistry entertaining to students and deliver suggestions to guide them through hands-on experiments.
They are educational toys with usage in the classroom. Below are some of them:
- Gumball machine: A gumball machine can make learning fun for children. It has a simplistic interface. A child only needs to put all the balls into the top chamber and then press a handle. As he presses the handle, a wall slides open. The balls drop down to the lower chamber to slip out from the machine.
From this fun-filled experience, a child can learn how a complex and integrated mechanism works. As he grows older, this learning stays with him and helps him pick up the functionality of composite machines.
- Laugh and learn table: A laugh and learn table can help children get familiar with alphabets and numbers, in a totally fun-filled way. The machine is a plastic board with small toy phones and toy computers onto it.
When a child slams open the monitor, and presses the alphabetical keyboard buttons (there are only five or six of them), a musical rhyme describing all 26 alphabets starts playing. Once the lesson is delivered, the rhyme concludes with:
“Now I know my ABC
Next time want you sing with me.”
Pressing the numerical buttons of a toy cellphone activates a voice that enunciates all numbers from one to nine. Since the voice in the background is of a toddler, a child can easily relate himself to it.
- Classical stacker: A classical stacker works in a simple way. The toy is a vertical stick on a round surface. A smiling face is put atop the stick to give it a human-like form. The real fun are the four colored opaque rings that come separately. First the smiling face is taken off, then the rings are added. At the end, the face is put on the top again.
As a child touches the smiling face, the holes engraved in the stick begin to flash light akin to a traffic signal. The light radiates through the transparent rings and a music plays. The toy is quite entertaining for children. They learn symmetry and organization from it.
- Sing along stage: The toy is a mirror resting on four legs, with plenty of buttons. There are light bulbs on the top of the mirror. A small toy guitar is carved onto the plastic surface underneath the mirror, along with other toy items.
A child can play with it in several ways. He can press one button after another and dance in the tune of a music. He can see himself on the mirror, while surprises pop open and the music plays. This important aspect of the toy can make a child introspective.
- Art toys: Toys that fall into this category let children express their creativity. Most schools insist children to take part in the extracurricular activities. They offer courses on performing arts, drawing, sculpting, and so on. Art toys are fun to handle, and infuse children with a liking for arts. By using those toys, children perform well in the art-related activities hosted by their schools.
Magnetic drawing boards, Art and Fun Beads, Art and Fun Scratch, Etch-a-Sketches are some of the art toys. The benefits of those toys are immense when it comes to fostering the artist within your child. The magnetic drawing board, for example, allows a child to draw without needing crayons or markers. This way, they can draw without creating a mess.
Craft kits: Similar to art toys, craft kits can invoke the artist inside your child. A craft kit comes with a range of instruments. Kids not only learn the basics of craft, they also begin to love it, which creates new doors of opportunities for them once they grow up.
Balancing act: Apparently, a balancing act is a fairly simple toy. There’s no complexity in it. But in reality, the toy is not that simple; it introduces kids to the basics principles of physics.
Why a small object resting on a big object never falls? And why it’s not likewise? Physics has all the answers. The toy only shows kids the problem. When they receive the answer, they quickly get a grasp of it.
Robots: Kids have been playing with toy robots since the mid-80s. It’s not new, but developments in the field of artificial intelligence are relatively recent. Such developments have added seriousness to playing with toy robots.
The toy robots have many features in them that resemble their original counterparts. As kids play with them, they become familiar with those features. As they age, the developments in robotics start to fascinate them. Tomorrow’s robotic engineer is a kid today. Unless he builds an interest in robotics, he won’t be able to contribute to foster the developments.
Apparently, there’s nothing sublime. But a monkey or a doll is the imitation of a person in the real world. As kids dress them up, they take a liking in interacting with others. It develops their social skills. The toy is not widely used in a classroom environment, but something that’s similar to it in concept can be used instead.
Wondering why we didn’t mention it in the beginning?
Because it’s too mainstream.
But when opening a list of educational toys for kids, it’s impossible not to include puzzle boxes.
The Rubik’s cube is just an example; there are plenty other puzzle boxes. They are close to each other though. The child pushes the walls of the boxes and the color or letter combination keeps changing.
Since the toy presents a puzzle, solving it bestows the kid with confidence. Besides that, the kid’s intelligent capabilities sharpen.
Toys for Infants
For an infant, a toy is not a playing equipment. It is, rather, a stimulation for the development of his sensory organs. Not every stimulation around, an infant is purposeful. A toy, however, exemplifies purposeful stimulation.
Babies stimulate themselves when they grasp, kick their small feet, move their hands, and observe bodily gestures of others around them. Toys can take stimulation to a new level. As the baby plays with the toy, he responds to the playing experience. A stuck knob or a jammed barrel of a toy can create a great distress in the baby. Such distresses can have negative impacts on their mental and emotional health.
That’s the reason infant toys are simple. They are small in size and colorful because an infant lacks visual acuity and can’t hold a large-size object.
There are disabled kids with physical or mental challenges. They require special care and attention. Just like them, there are kids, who look normal from the outside, but who have problem focusing on something. This problem owes to abnormalities in attentional focus.
Fidget toys are manufactured keeping such kids in mind. By definition, a fidget toy is actually a tool that help kids in self-regulation. Kids with emotional or attentional dysfunction face troubles keeping their focus on something for a long time. Fidget toys can help them identify the problems that they are undergoing, and overcome them.
The list of fidget toys is pretty extensive. Some of the popular ones include:
- Pin arts
- Rubber ducks
- Linking rings
- Newton’s cradle
- Bendable dolls
- Snow globe
- Sand timer
- Drinking straws
- Plastic piping
- Mini trampoline
- Bumpy piping
- Rubber band
- Paper clips
A perfectly normal kid can also use fidget toys. Handling them will help him sharpen his intelligent quotient.
Integrate Toys in the Curriculum
Then the circle will be complete. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. Only if the curriculum was equally considerate to studying and playing with toys, jack would have been a really intelligent boy.
But integrating toys in the curriculum is not easy. The course design needs to be done in such an impeccable manner that jack fails to separate studying from playing. As always, unless the educator is creative enough, he won’t be able to design a course module such as this.
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