Beyond Toys for your Toddler this Christmas
November has come and gone and for those of us who celebrate Christmas, the season for buying gifts is in full swing. If it is just something you want to buy, that’s great. But, what if you are wondering what should you buy? Probably every toy out there boasts claims for being educational and an invaluable asset to your child’s future success.
So what to do about toys? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you laugh out loud at what I am about to say because there are so many toys in my house, but seriously, I believe in many ways that toys are simply over-rated these days. Sure, kids love toys and they can be useful to support their learning and development at times, but they are not essential. In fact, in much of the early years literature, there is no discussion of toys. The discussion is about providing materials for children to engage in lively, intrinsically motivated, freely chosen play.
Here are a few articles that may be of interest to you and provide a different perspective on toys and what to buy your children this Christmas.
Deb Curtis, Kasondra L. Brown, Lorrie Baird, and Anne Marie Coughlin explore the enhanced learning abilities of very young children (under three years old) in “Lively Minds Minds at Play: Planning Environments and Materials That Support the Way Young Children Learn." The article suggests materials, ideas and principles for providing materials that will engage and delight your toddler.
You can also look at different play materials that support school readiness. One aspect of school readiness is pre-writing skills. Despite popular belief, children do not master a tripod grasp by starting early. Instead, they develop the various muscles of the hands, wrists and forearms through play, thus enabling them to master the tripod grasp between four and seven years of age. Early Literacy Specialists from the Parent Resource Centre in Ottawa created a handout called “From Scribbling to Writing: A guide to Fine Motor Development For Professionals.” The handout provides a wide range of materials that you can readily and inexpensively include in your home, providing opportunities for your child to develop the ability to use a pencil effectively.
But let’s face it; we are all probably going to buy toys at Christmas this year, so which ones are high quality and the right ones to buy. Well, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) interviewed two researchers to find what the resarch says about the impact of toys on play. Overall, the researchers advise that “basic is best” when it comes to toys and they recommend choosing the simple, classic toys that have stood the test of time.
And for buying toys, my preference is the preschool supply stores. I love the products at Wintergreen. The quality and selection of toys is pretty amazing! But, the cost can be too much for a small home daycare or family and the shipping can be expensive. So instead, I am starting to shop Scholar’s Choice. They have favourable shipping rates, including free shipping to their stores. And the early childhood stores have very cool toys and materials that support learning in all of the domains of development as well as the academic subjects.
Hopefully, this helps provide a new and different perspective on supporting your child's learning and development and I also hope it helps you find just what your child needs this Christmas!