by Patti Clark | Lakeshore VP of Research & Development
Finding the toy selection a bit overwhelming this holiday season? No worries; we’ve got you covered! Consider surprising the little ones with educational toys. Not only do they inspire hours of joyful play, but they also encourage growth and development. Here’s how to find educational gifts your kids will love.
Tip 1: Pick toys that match your child’s interests and age.
Children will learn only from toys they find interesting, so take cues from what they like.
- Consider what gets your children excited. If they’ve been talking nonstop about dinosaurs, look for games and toys focusing on prehistoric themes. If they’ve been asking questions in the kitchen, pick up toys to help them practice cooking skills, like The Amazing Chef Cooking Set.
- Check the age ranges on product packages to choose age-appropriate toys aligned with their abilities (and keep frustration and boredom at bay).
Tip 2: Look for toys kids can use in a variety of ways.
Open-ended toys make smart purchases, since kids can use them over and over again. Simply look for blocks, builders, bricks, arts & crafts materials and anything else kids use to create. Some of these toys can even transition to more advanced play as children grow and develop new skills. Toys that focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), for instance, are open-ended, encourage creative thinking and give kids fun firsthand experience with the process of design.
Tip 3: Choose toys that spark the imagination and provide opportunities for pretend play.
Good old-fashioned pretend play helps children develop creative thinking while building language and literacy skills. When you’re shopping, consider how your kids’ imaginations might run away with a product. Here are some ideas:
- Play kitchen sets and pretend foods might lead to a bustling restaurant in your living room.
- A toy cash register and play money may inspire kids to open a make-believe store.
- Blocks, play animals, cars and other figures give kids what they need to build a miniature zoo or city.
- A stethoscope and some stuffed animals could become a thriving veterinary practice.
- A picnic playset lets kids have a picnic anywhere, anytime—even on a snowy holiday morning!
Tip 4: Opt for toys that promote social skills and collaborative play.
Most children learn how to cooperate through play. Since so many games highlight the fun of working with others, it’s easy to find gifts that foster social skills.
- If you’re shopping for young ones, look for activities involving taking turns, sharing and compromising.
- If your kids are older, consider toys offering opportunities for teamwork and group problem-solving.
- Choose gifts kids can enjoy as a team, like games, experiment kits, puzzles and builders.
Tip 5: Shop for toys focusing on real-world exploration.
Spark natural curiosity and stimulate learning with exploratory toys.
- A simple set of binoculars provides hours of discovery while prompting children to ask a variety of different How? and Why? questions. Afterward, dive into some books to answer their questions.
- A bug-catching kit helps kids get an up-close look at nature.
- Experiment kits and science toys like this Young Scientist Chemistry Lab make great choices, too. Who knows? You might end up inspiring a budding scientist or STEM enthusiast.
Tip 6: Find board games that boost math and language skills.
It’s easy to find games with learning potential. Here’s how:
- Choose games featuring pieces that help young children build counting skills as they move them around a game board.
- Look for games involving making decisions and forming strategies to help boost both math and cognitive skills.
- Find games with question cards or trivia to help kids practice reading skills.
- Browse the aisles for games that help kids learn life skills. For example, The Allowance Game® helps kids make smart decisions when earning and spending money.
No matter which toys you choose, encourage your kids by getting in on the fun. Set aside time each day and take part in playtime. The best holiday gift you can give is to play along with your kids!
Happy holiday shopping!