It’s a dilemma that you’ll face quite a few times throughout your parenting life – do you go for something that you know the kids will love and go crazy over (usually either junk food or based on a TV character), or do you buy something that’s healthy – for either their body or mind? Fortunately, it’s a topic that you won’t have to tackle for some months after you become a parent, as there is little difference in toys for babies. Today we explore how you can create a healthy mix of ‘fun’ baby toys and educational baby toys from ages 0-3.
Before their first birthday
Before your child turns one, there is actually no debate to have. Every single toy you can offer your baby is educational… no matter how fun it looks. There’s no way to ‘spoil’ your under-1 year old with toys. It doesn’t matter how much advertising a toy contains, and how pointless it seems to an adult, all baby toys can be learned from equally and drooled on equally at this age. Even some of those that are ordinarily vilified…
Is television good for my baby?
Yes, even television has plenty to teach young kids Xe chòi chân cho bé – the stimulation of bright colours and music, the challenge of pattern recognition, as well as the abundant human faces (which babies are pre-programmed to pay attention to) mean that television can be a great learning experience for babies. Of course, your child can have too much of a good thing – the key is balance.
As your child moves into toddlerhood, you’ll start to have to focus on creating a mix of ‘fun’ time and educational time. Some children naturally pay little attention to advertising and television, and would far prefer to be playing with age-appropriate puzzles or challenge-based toys, getting muddy in the garden, or being read to. And of course, it’s wise to let your children lead if they naturally lean towards activities that will stimulate their learning. In other situations though, you’ll need to provide alternating ‘fun’ and educational experiences in terms of toys, television and activities.
The case for ‘fun’ baby toys
Here are some pertinent points when you’re thinking about baby toys for over-1s that are purely for fun:
• All toys, even fun-based toys, provide some level of education at this age
• Toys that your child finds fun will likely get played with more often, making them both better value for money and more likely to help him learn
• Children usually stop finding toys fun when they stop teaching them something…
However, you do need to make sure (especially with older toddlers) that they don’t fall into a mental rut where they habitually play with baby toys that they find ‘easy’. If you notice this, you’ll need to take the lead and start showing them how to use baby toys for older ages, helping them build confidence.
The case for educational baby toys
Educational baby toys are usually thought of as those that help build those skills that will be used in formal education. For example, shape naming and recognition toys, colour matching toys, and any baby toy that has a ‘purpose’ and presents a significant challenge can be thought of as educational. Here’s why it can be great to use these baby toys to push your toddler past the boundaries of fun:
• Educational toys can instil a sense of pride in achievement which is very useful later in life
• Building the skills of traditional education means that your child will feel more comfortable and confident in a kindergarten or school environment, and therefore do better
• Educational toys usually need parental involvement… it’s a great excuse to spend time with them!