Saturday, July 12, 2008

What Are the Best Toys for Your Young Learners to Play With? Part 1

Flash back to a Christmas Morning
Eyes wide and beaming with ear-to-ear smiles, a two year old boy and his five year old sister ripped open their Christmas presents one by one. A battery-powered doll that ”sings”, a new bike complete with flashers, siren and lights, a battery-powered set of race cars that pits two vehicles against each other around a closed track. Battery-powered lights flash, wheels whirl and engines “roar” while an overhead banner counts laps with colored lights and finally, declares a winner. It was a scene of utter joy on the part of the children and parents alike. But wait. I was becoming a bit leery of the scene unfolding before me.

Does Everything Use Batteries?

“Does everything use batteries”, I asked.

Apparently getting my point, the father nodded sheepishly in the affirmative before laughing out loud. How much value are such toys in the education of children and in helping to mold young, eager minds?

The two year old began to illustrate my point. He didn’t want to simply watch the red and black cars race around the tiered track. He wanted to play with the cars. Snatching the red one up, he rolled it back and forth on the floor in front of him ignoring the flashing lights and sound effects behind him.

“R-r-r-r-r-r”, “R-r-r-r-r-r-r”, “R-r-r-r-r-r-r”, he trilled, imitating a car engine.

“No, no son”, father responded, showing the boy how to turn on the battery-powered car sounds. The child watched and listened, fascinated for a few moments. Then, he’d have none of it.

“R-r-r-r-r-r”, “R-r-r-r-r-r-r”, “R-r-r-r-r-r-r”, he sounded again, the car back in his hand whirring across the cool tile floor.

What is a Toy?
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “toy” as “an article to play with; especially a plaything for children.” The key point I want to make is that children play with or use the toy. They are not passive observers. Toys should NOT be the kind that a child just sits and watches. They MUST be “interactive” tools for children to have any true development.

What Toys Do
Toys can provide numerous aspects and functions. Some of the more important of these include:

• Stimulate role play and modeling of cultural behaviors
• Help to develop critical perceptive skills
• Help to develop and fine tune motor skills
• Directly stimulate right brain development of visual-spatial aspects and color
• Aid in development of critical thinking
• Provide a channel for development of emotional intelligence
• Educate children in a variety of ways (which can be positive or negative)
• Entertain young, developing minds

We'll continue this theme in part two of this two-part article post. See you then.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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