Throughout history, children & even many adults have taken a keen interest in toys. Not only they help with entertainment but also teach us a lot.
Such toys serve a good educational purpose for students of all ages.
History & Concepts of Educational Toys:
Anthropologist Brian Sutton Smith discussed the history of toys (In ‘Toys as Culture’ (1986)) and stated that “in multifarious ways, toys are mediating the cultural conflicts within the personal lives of children”.
For each era, educational toys have reflected the cultural concerns of their time.
Learning skills through educational toys:
Dolls can be seen as an early “educational toy” because dolls acted as substitutes to humans, allowing children to learn to care for living babies and children. The same way, ‘bow and arrows’ toys and other toy weapons acted like substitutes for real weapons, enabling kids to develop the fighting, defense & hunting skills.
For kids who didn’t have access to certain toys, many have even crafted their own choice of toys & have happily played with it. Kids improvised a wide variety of toys and games using whatever came to their hand, including fences, barrels, sticks, stones, and sand. This makes them skill up their creativity.
Developing memory & strategy with educational toys:
Both children and adults played games such as backgammon, dice, chess, and cards, which helped them to develop manual dexterity, memory, and strategy.
It can be viewed as the process through which children experience the world, practicing and internalizing new skills and ideas. Experiences include imitation, reasoning about cause and effect, solving problems, and engaging in symbolic thinking.” As children grow and learn, the repertoire of skills which they are developmentally ready to acquire expands, building upon previous knowledge. Hence, playing is important for cognitive, emotional, and social development of children.
Modern-day educational games & toys:
These days, teachers who use educational toys in classroom settings, try to identify toys that will be appropriate to a child’s developmental level, existing skills, and interests. They engage the kids with toys in ways that support cognitive development & learning. Many educators emphasize the importance of open-ended imaginative play, exploration and social engagement.
Toys with the quality of open-mindedness can be used by children in a variety of ways and at different ages and developmental levels.
Toys with more heavily specified and restricted design may be less intuitive for children to use and require more engagement and support from adults. Many researches on learning games and toys report that the effectiveness of a toy is more related to the involvement and guidance of adults, or the child’s intellectual level than to the toy itself.
These learning toys claim to enhance the intellectual, social, emotional, and/or physical development. Educational toys are thus designed to target development milestones within appropriate age groups.
- For preschool age youngsters, simple wooden blocks might be a good starting point for a child to begin to understand causal relationships, basic principles of science (e.g. if a block falls from the top of a structure, it will fall until a surface stops its fall), and develop patience and rudimentary hand-eye coordination.
- For a child moving towards elementary school, other, more sophisticated manipulatives might further aid the development of these skills. Interlocking manipulative toys like Lego (Building Blocks) or puzzles challenge the child to improve their hand-eye coordination, patience, and an understanding of spatial relationships.
- Finally, a child in elementary school might use basic yet sophisticated construction sets including moving parts, magnets, motors, etc. to help further understand the slightly complex but interesting workings of the world. Importantly, the educational value derived by the child increases when the educational toy is age-appropriate.
Robotic-Kits as Learning Toys for Kids:
Robotic-kits are an educational tool for teaching basic robotics. They are used in Secondary Schools, High Schools and in Mechatronics Training in companies as well. However, the Robotic-Kits are also used by hobby robot builders.
” The plans of the playful imagination dominate the objects or the toys, not the other way around. ”