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Learning Toys: The “Wrong” Toys for Holding Your Child Back and the “Right” Toys for Building Your Child’s Brain
This article provides helpful information about the right learning toys and the wrong learning toys to purchase for your children. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
Many of you have been asking “what are the ‘right’ gifts to give my child?” Toys have definitely changed from when I was a kid. Most toys involved playing outside, promoted some type of physical activity and encouraged imaginative play. Today, most kids gravitate to electronic devices, phones and items that actually restrict movement-based exercises. While many of these games and toys are fun for kids and do provide some educational foundation, they still don’t provide the necessary building blocks most children need to enhance their development and brain-building activity for higher learning. What makes our job harder is that most of these toys are on the top gift givers lists that kids ask for so it can be difficult to convince children to play with toys that are important for their development, but are less popular on their “wish list.”
Ditch the Electronics
Did you know studies have shown millennials today actually have weaker hand grip than older generations? It’s true. Kids that have grown up in the digital age and the rising generations have weaker fine motor skills and struggle more with pencil grip and handwriting because they are constantly swiping and tapping instead of using their fingers, hands, wrists and elbows for writing in the classroom. While the practice of cursive handwriting seems pointless to teach in our schools, it actually can enhance emotional control, right and left brain neural connections for organization and problem solving, and better tracking for reading and writing.
Another problem with electronics is that most kids seem to have a wonderful relationship with their kindle and tablet, but what about their friends? The more they are on their devices, the less time they spend developing social skills, expressive language and communication, and appropriate social behaviors.
Some games like Minecraft and fun educational apps on phones, tablets and kindles are good for problem solving and critical thinking skills, but too often children spend hours playing these games, which prevent them from building their gross motor skills and core muscle needed for important tasks in the classroom like copying notes from the chalkboard, sitting still at their desk, listening to the teacher and retaining facts and details.
Really? Toys can Restrict Movement?
When searching for toys to purchase for your child, take a step back and ask yourself if the toy encourages movement or restricts their mobility. This is especially important when buying items for babies when their developmental milestones are most critical. Toys that prevent your child from crawling, standing, grasping and walking like the Bumbo floor seat and learning walker can delay your child’s development in these important areas. Not only that it can affect their posture, but their muscle and bone structure as well. If many of these areas are underdeveloped, they could cause attention issues and sensory problems later down the road.
In addition, toys like the learning walker and power wheel trucks, jeeps and convertibles give your child an easy way out of developing their motor skills. Why walk, run and use the legs if the devices will do it for me? The problem is when they don’t use these important muscles, you may start to see trouble with your child’s balance, coordination, vestibular and proprioception. All of these underdeveloped areas are some of the primary causes of emotional issues, fidgeting, meltdowns, bad behavior and anxiety. Try to switch out some of these toys for scooters (floor scooters are best), bikes, in-home swings, tricycles, throwing balls and skateboards.
What are the “right” learning toys?
Any toy that is going to incorporate movement in your child’s routine is good for the body and for the brain. These types of toys will improve many skills at home and at school.
Toys like the Dyson vacuum and wheelbarrow are perfect heavy work activities to enhance your child’s proprioception. Other toys like the workshop and octopus will strengthen your child’s fine motor development and hand-eye coordination.
To give you some more great ideas, here are some of our favorites. Below each item is also a description of what areas the toy targets for learning development and how it can improve your child’s overall brain activity.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs