Anyone would be forgiven for viewing toys as simply special occasion gifts that offer a temporary distraction for our children, or as objects that entertain our little ones while we busy ourselves with other grown up duties. Yet beyond this, toys open up a whole world of learning opportunities for our kids.
Playing with toys equips children with skills that foster their development beyond imaginary battles between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their enemies or playing house with the yummy smelling Num Noms. Toys help kids develop fine motor skills and think creatively along with many other valuable dexterities. The more children play with toys the more equipped they become for progression to other stages of their lives.
Children learn a number of skills they will need and use as adults as they play. When children use toys such as Poppit – where they create things using clay and moulds – they are able to build and make and refine their fine motor skills while doing so. They also learn about different colours and using them successfully. Once the building project is complete, this stirs up feelings of achievement. “I win! I’m good at that!” In the same way that adults feel a sense of accomplishment when they’ve seen a project through from planning to completion, children too feel a sense of pride after building their Poppit kingdom from scratch. These feelings build and reinforce self-esteem and self-confidence in a child.
Playing with dolls like Baba Tasha, Baby Born or Sofia the First encourages role play where kids are able to be mom and dad for a while and look after baby, put it to sleep and take care of it. Role play has the ability to lengthen attention span through the making up of games and stories with multiple storylines, characters and endings. This enables children to develop better judgement, reasoning and problem solving and negotiation skills. When playing with friends or siblings these skills can go even further to include taking turns, working together in a team, listening to each other, playing fair and helping each other.
On your next trip to the toy store, before you pick up a toy to brighten up your little one’s day, remember that toys play a big part in advancing your child’s development beyond what they are learning at school. Think about what stage of growth they are in and match your toy selection to the skills you would like them to practice and learn.