No electronics needed: inexpensive and educational toys for kids

No electronics needed: inexpensive and educational toys for kids

by Carly Williams
Stripes Okinawa

It can be daunting navigating the toy aisle, or browsing online for appropriate toys for children under five. Most shoppers want value for money, as well as educational value, and naturally we want the child receiving the purchase to find the toy fun to use too – what’s the point otherwise? Seeking to meet these personal standards are the toy manufacturers who heavily advertise their new toys, always seeking to entice shoppers with the latest inventions or new, improved versions of older favorites. All these factors combined can lead to confusion, panic buying, and often excessive spending, sometimes on toys that do not provide much in the way of educational or entertainment value.

Looking beyond all the latest high-tech toys available today, some of the simplest toys can actually be the best for providing learning opportunities for toddlers and preschoolers. Take building blocks as an example: whether they be wooden blocks, Legos or any of the various other kinds available, blocks are invaluable in developing early mathematic skills. Playing with blocks encourages measurement, familiarity with size and shapes, and the concept of patterning. Children can also develop problem-solving skills and learn about the notions of cause and effect, while also acquiring knowledge of positional words. Finally, building blocks are valuable for physical development too as they encourage the use of both small and large motor control and hand-eye coordination. Evidently, there’s a lot of educational bang for your buck when it comes to a box of building blocks.

Simple puzzles and board games also provide many developmental benefits to young children, whilst also being relatively inexpensive to buy. Not only do board games provide children learning opportunities to develop valuable social skills such as sharing and taking turns, they also encourage vocabulary development. Many board games also contain mathematical elements such as counting or shape and color recognition. Puzzles can develop fine motor control, but also help to build a foundation for problem-solving and strategizing.

Often overlooked for their educational value are musical instruments, which can make wonderful gifts that stand out as something a little different. Simple instruments such as drums, tambourines and maracas allow children to be creative, and express themselves in a constructive manner, but also help to develop body awareness. Playing with musical instruments can help with listening skills and strengthen memory too. Early literacy skills receive a boost due to the development of phonemic awareness, and math skills are enhanced through the use of patterns within music.

When browsing for gifts for young children that are educational too, consider art supplies, or a craft set that is age-appropriate for the child. Early learning is supported by art in a wide range of ways, not least because it allows children occasions to explore their creativity and express themselves. Art helps with color identification and concepts and promotes problem-solving skills. Cause and effect can also be explored with art materials. The development of both fine motor skills and early writing skills is connected to arts and crafts too.

Alternatively, shoppers could look into buying cooking supplies as a gift for young children as these can help develop math concepts such as measurement, promote soft skills such as listening and following directions, and support the process of delayed gratification. Literacy development can be supported with toys that promote role-play, or with puppets and similar things, and items such as flashcards, magnetic sets, and Play-Doh can be inexpensive ways to extend learning in a variety of ways.

Finally, it’d be difficult to finish this article without mentioning books, even if they are not technically categorized as toys. Research has shown many times over that the availability of books in a young child’s home, and being read to daily, can have a remarkable impact on learning outcomes once that child is in school. Books are relatively inexpensive, but their educational significance is striking. 

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