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Toys for Child Development: The more the toy does for the child the less they do for themselves

Toys and learning tools are important in developing new skills, they are vehicles that provide greater levels of understanding and important connections in the brain. When searching for toys that enhance the learning process we can often be overwhelmed by the options available, with many, particularly digital options, promising almost instant learning outcomes. 

When making choices as to what to purchase, we can tap into our own life experiences which provide valuable insights. We have learned that when things were done for us (or others we knew) particularly as we got older, for example: cleaning up and organising ourselves, the development of the skills and sub-skills learned from these tasks were delayed and often more difficult to take onboard. We knew that no matter how much we cycled around with our child sitting in the child seat at the back of our own bicycle, this would not teach the child how to ride themselves. These are simply a few examples that emphasise the point that ‘The more that is done for you, the less you do for yourself’ This insight is important and can guide choices around the best learning tools for your child.

When evaluating learning tools and toys, the toys that come with flashing images, sounds and pre-recorded dialogue may not necessarily provide the best learning opportunities for your child. They perform functions that for developmental purposes should be performed by the child. When a child picks up an object that they recognise to be the shape of a car(rectangle), then move it on the ground making their own car sounds, this provides more connections in the brain compared with a child turning on a remote control car that comes with its own sound effects. 

“There is also some evidence that children who watch a lot of television during the early elementary school years do not perform as well on reading tests and may show deficits in attention.”— Dr. Jennifer Cross

There are also side-effects of electronic, screen-based toys and applications that are now becoming more publicised.  The screen graphics, moving images, characters, and music can often overstimulate the brain and produce a surge of dopamine which, is the same chemical released in the brain when people consume addictive substances like cocaine. In recent years, we have seen an influx in cases of screen addiction in children. This level of dependency prevents the child from being able to fully engage in day-to-day activities without persistent thoughts of electronic devices and without treatment can lead to devastating long-term effects. 

Simple wooden toys such as Wooden Rainbow Exploration Blocks and other examples of open-ended toys are a great option. They are designed to engage multiple senses and to allow creativity and imagination to flourish, and because the child is not limited to what they can do, they can happily spend extended periods of time immersed in play and learning. 

The value and benefits of technology should not be discounted. The use and exploration of technology is an important aspect of our lives and should be provided with time and attention in later years of development. In the early years of development, however, it is much more beneficial for the child to learn through discovery, creativity and imagination.