10 of the Worst Toys for Your Child’s Learning Development
This article provides information regarding learning toys for your child’s educational development. 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.
Believe it or not, there are toys that are more suited for your child’s learning development than others. Toys with bright lights, loud noises or “learning tags” on their boxes don’t always give your child the educational experiences needed for growth and development in areas of auditory, visual-motor, core stability, fine motor, balance and coordination, hand-eye coordination and much more.
Why are these areas so important? “Play is the language of childhood.” Remember, between the ages of 1 to 10, a child’s brain and body is developing rapidly and it’s a relatively small, but critical window for learning to take place. So much of what a child learns in the first 10 years of their life can affect the rest of their learning and career development for years to come.
All of these areas of development correlate and can directly impact your child’s ability to read, write, track words on a page, sequence numbers, comprehend, follow directions, copy notes from the chalkboard and retain information in the classroom.
10 of The Worst Toys I can Buy my Child
So why are some of these toys the worst toys you can buy your child? First and foremost, many of them restrict or don’t engage your child in movement, which is key to “awakening” the brain for learning.
While many of these toys are in demand and on your child’s “wish list,” they can prevent and even hinder the necessary developmental skills your child needs for basic learning growth.
Electronics, sadly to say, are at the top of the list. While many of these toys do offer coding opportunities or certain learning aspects, kids are spending far too much time on these devices and are missing out in critical areas of development.
For example, too much swiping with a finger doesn’t allow your child to strengthen the hands, fingers, wrists and arms needed to write words down on paper. Staring at a screen all day long doesn’t give your child opportunities to cross the midline with their body, which is important for tracking words across the page, reading sentence-to-sentence and paragraph-to-paragraph.
In addition, television and video games don’t allow the sensory-motor development kids need for relationship building, speech and language and motor planning.
Many toys that are “bad” for your child aren’t necessarily dangerous or harmful to their physical health, but they don’t engage the areas of learning that help a child reach their full academic potential. We continue to see more and more children with learning issues that can be prevented with additional purposeful and meaningful play experiences.
Some of the most common problems we see in a child’s learning development include the following:
- Adds or subtracts letters in words
- Poor handwriting
- Skips letters, words and even sentences
- Doesn’t understand or know what they just read
- Can’t remember what tasks or assignments the teacher asked them to complete
- Fidgets in their chair and is unable to concentrate
- Doesn’t know how to process information, organize and sequence their work for math and writing
- Can’t get thoughts down on paper
- Poor core muscle tone (affects child’s ability to copy notes from the chalkboard)
- Weak proprioception (can cause attention issues and/or handwriting problems)
- Can’t verbalize or communicate thoughts
Here are why some of these items below made it to our top 10 worst list:
Kids Motor Ride-On Toys
While these cool mechanical trucks, jeeps, convertibles and dirt bikes are fun, they do all the work instead of your child. Your child doesn’t pedal and they don’t use any type of hand-eye coordination or bilateral coordination with their feet or arms to get their bodies moving.
Many of these toy robots are popping up, mainly to give kids opportunities to learn coding. In a tech driven world it’s hard to not want your child to develop these skills so they have a greater understanding as they get older. However, these types of toys don’t encourage your child to use their hands for fine motor development, which is critical for handwriting and pencil grip.
Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit
This Star Wars Droid, while cool, is not the best idea for building a child’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and visual-motor skills. You can see it directly connects to the iPhone or other electronic device, which is what we are trying to avoid for better learning development.
This toy looks like fun, but it may only hold the child’s attention for a short amount of time. While it can encourage imaginative play, it lacks any type of encouragement for the child to move. The toy talks and growls, but we want toys that are going to get your child jumping, swinging, skipping, crossing the midline, and using their hands and feet.
Pomsies Speckles Plush Interactive Toys
Some stuffed animals are great for imaginative play like puppets for example. However, this stuffed animal only loops around your child’s wrist and doesn’t provide the child with the social interaction or two-way communication we want the child to experience.
Hatchimals are not the best learning option for children. Other than watching the eggs hatch, there is not a lot of value in helping their learning development. It’s important to provide the child with tactile and sensory-motor experiences when using toys and other objects.
We discourage the use of electronic devices as much as possible while the child is growing and developing. Two-dimensional devices (screens) that replace three-dimensional objects (blocks, puzzles, etc.) do not help the child process what they see, hear and feel, which eventually helps the child self-regulate and respond to the world around us.
Remote Control Cars
Laser Tag Game
We discourage toys like this laser game or other nerf gun-type toys because the child only needs to point and shoot the toy rather than using the full arm, elbow and hand to launch the object forward. Throwing balls and tossing beanbags for example are much more effective for the child to build their sense of proprioception, hand-eye coordination and fine motor for handwriting and reading development.
Black Panther Helmet
These types of toys come and go depending on what’s popular right now with kids. While this helmet encourages imaginative play, it only makes sounds and flashes lights. To get the full sensory experience, two-way communication, and social relationship building along with the imaginative play, action figures are a much better option for a child’s learning development.
10 of the Best Learning Toys to Buy your Child
Introducing different forms of play and the “right” types of learning toys believe it or not can help your child climb the developmental ladder. The right types of learning toys catered to a child’s learning development can help a child’s sense of security, mastery, confidence and independence.
For example, learning how hard or how soft to throw a ball can help a child understand how hard or how soft to apply pressure to their pencil as they write words across a page.
Riding a bike or peddling a tricycle is another example of a toy that can help your child’s learning development. Why is that? Bikes, tricycles and cars that allow your child to move their legs engage both sides of the body (called laterality), which forces your child to use both sides of their brain. It improves core muscle and allows the child to coordinate their feet, legs, arms and hands (bilateral coordination) used to help them stay focused and watch the road. These simple skills can improve your child’s attention and focus, helps them sit still in their chair and builds their strength to hold up their core so they can copy notes from the chalkboard.
The right types of learning toys can enhance the following six fundamental developmental skills for a strong learning foundation:
- Ability to take an interest in sights, sounds and sensations of the world
- Ability to engage in relationships with other people
- Ability to engage in two-way communication
- Ability to problem-solve sequence
- Ability to create ideas
- Ability to build bridges between ideas and make them reality-based and logical
Here are the top 10 learning toys we recommend to help your child climb that academic ladder:
Playskool Classic Dressy Kids
The Playskool Dressy Kids toy is great for building fine motor skills and basic functional skills. You wouldn’t believe how many kids today don’t know how to tie a shoe, zip up their own coat or fasten a button. It could be contributed to weaker muscle strengthen in the hands and fingers, possibly because of too much screen time instead of developing these other critical areas.
Plastic Ball Pit
Ball pits provide great opportunities for kids to move, jump, bury themselves and improve their tactile, which is important for whole body learning, proprioception and their overall sensory experience.
Any learning toys that help kids stack, sort and build like this Geometric Stacker are critical for developing hand-eye coordination, visual-motor, fine motor and critical thinking. All of these areas are needed for handwriting, tracking words on the page, and problem solving in the classroom.
This turtle toss game is a great alternative to the laser tag game above. The child needs to focus on the target and throw the beanbag hard enough or soft enough to hit the target. These skills are important for handwriting and the amount of pressure the child needs to apply to their pencil. It can also improve their attention and focus.
Learning toys that help balance and coordination like these Gong Riverstones are important for your child’s overall educational experience. Kids with poor core muscle strength can barely hold their body and head up at their desk to copy notes from the chalkboard and focus on the teacher as she is talking at the front of the classroom. Building the child’s core as well as their balance and coordination can improve attention and focus, help kids sit still in their chair and prevent unnecessary fidgeting.
Hopper balls are also great for building core muscle and a child’s vestibular system. If a child has trouble attending in the classroom, struggles with emotional ground and self-regulation, experiences anxiety and often needs to move to learn, this is one of the best learning toys for giving the child the necessary movement their body is craving.
Tool sets are one of the most effective ways to build your child’s fine motor skills as well as proprioception. They need to use hammers, nails, screws and screwdrivers to build the hand strength that is so important for handwriting development.
Go Karts, Bikes, Pedal Cars
Toys that provides kids with opportunities to pedal their feet, like this Go Kart Pedal Car is one of the best toys you can get for your child. It improves their core muscle, vestibular system and bilateral coordination. All of these areas of development are important for attention, focus, emotional grounding, fidgeting, communication, vocabulary, language skills and other learning areas.
Cup stacking is one of the best activities for helping your child cross the midline of the body. Why is this important? Crossing the midline with your hands and feet helps your child to ignite both sides of the brain. It helps “combine” the logical with the creative sides, which gives them a more holistic approach to learning for speech, language, reading, writing, math and problem solving.
Balance boards, like this Monkey Balance Board, is another type of learning toy catered to building core muscle, vestibular, bilateral coordination, balance and coordination. These types of toys can help build a child’s posture for the classroom and improve their attention and focus.
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
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