“Buy me that toy or I’m not eating/leaving/speaking to you”, sound familiar? It happens to many parents and most have relented and bought the toy, but then what happened?
Remember that action figure they promised was the only thing they’d ever ask for but forgot about almost as soon as they held it?
Why purchase something that offers nothing but a couple of days of excitement and adds no quantifiable value to your child’s development?
Bring on the revolution!
Toys that offer no educational benefit exist even today and they probably always will, but they’re fighting a losing battle. The toys of today must appeal to both the parent and the child. Where the parent sees an investment in their child’s education, the child must see an engrossing toy. This is no easy feat and companies spend a lot of time trying to achieve this balance; for we all know what is interesting to an adult is rarely what interests a child.
Why do children have an easier time picking up skills?
- Children haven’t formed stable neurological connections or paths.
- Children have critical learning periods.
Young children have the ability to absorb massive amounts of information owing to the higher number of connections between neurons they possess. As we grow older our brains form stable connections and begin to ignore information that we consider useless. Consequently, neurons that are repeatedly used are strengthened and optimized.
All children undergo learning or critical periods, periods of growth where their neurological systems and abilities are developed. This period in case of language development ranges from birth to around 12 years of age, this is why children learn languages much faster than adults. The same is true for musical ability which also falls in the same age range. Certain skills require development in their learning periods while others can be picked up later in life. However, it is better and smoother for a child to pick up a skill compared to an adult.
We always do feel our kids are more talented than us, don’t we?
In children’s brains these connections are only forming (more are fully formed and fewer are in transition as one ages). This is called neuroplasticity or the ability of the brain to change. Neural connections that are used and reused strengthen while those that are not are undone. Here lies the basis for educational toys: Cognitive ability must be developed as early as possible.
What can educational toys really do for your child?
Children are easily influenced, and keeping in mind the amount of time children spend with their toys it’s safe to presume their toys must leave a lasting impression. Toys that offer nothing of value are rare; for even wooden blocks can be stacked to form structures which in turn improves cognitive ability (definitely a bad gift though). But with the options available today we can do so much better, educational toys have focused their efforts on providing enjoyment with a fair amount of science or math or problem solving techniques mixed in.
What exactly is an educational toy?
The toys of today do their very best to impress children through current trends, electronic features, etc. In parallel, scientific and engineering concepts are brought into the mix to appeal to the parents.
Educational kits are the new toys. They teach science and mathematics without the child ever realizing that he’s learning the concepts he was taught in school. The child is only aware of the fact that he’s building his own toys and that his toy in the end will have a function. It will run on wheels or play a movie or one of another million possibilities. But deep in their minds, they applied the concepts they were taught as they were building it and the next time they face an obstacle that can be resolved using one of these concepts, they will be ready.
The purpose of these toys.
Usable skills are the most valuable quality to possess today, worth more than knowledge that’s available everywhere on the internet. What information you’ve saved in your mind simply doesn’t matter as much anymore. What you could build with information from the internet, books, or the deepest corner of your mind on the other hand is a valuable asset.