The link between constructive play for children and toddlers, and the benefits educationally of certain toys, puzzles and games which promote both dextrous movement and elements of thought and puzzle solving has long been established.
However, during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the type of play, the supervision required, along with that particular toys and games that utilised had not been sufficiently studied for there to be any concrete evidence that educational toys and games had specific benefits. So what has changed since then, and where are we headed with children’s development through play? Here are 5 areas where change has had a positive impact.
1 – Independent reports in the United States and United Kingdom during the 1990’s have established exactly what toys and activities benefit preschool children. Furthermore, this latest research has been refined to the extent that it is now possible to target particular areas of a childs growth and encourage play with particular games and puzzles to focus on any areas where the parent or carer feels that stimulation is required.
For example, reasoning, dexterity, empathy towards others, numeracy, literacy and social interactions are among the many different skills that can be individually targeted with specific toys and methods of play.
Much of the research reinforces the common sense view is that manual puzzles promote dexterity and that reading and writing as well as basic numeracy should be encouraged at an early age.
Where this new research really has great benefits is in the specific ideas and support it gives to manufacturers of these educational toys and games as to how exactly to implement them properly for the very best benefit.
2 – Combining simple games of colour and shape matching with toys that require a basic level of agility and manual precision can lead to a child developing in more than one area at once. It is worth remembering how much information a child will absorb with little of no conscious effort. Combining various elements of growth through play has proved very beneficial.
3 – The need for emotional and social development is finally being understood.
With the world in general becoming an increasingly insular place, it is important that a child emotional and empathetic developments is also catered for. Simple ideas such as sharing, empathy and understanding are now considered a vital part of a preschool child’s education.
Again, research into the actual toys, puzzles and games which best benefit this area of a childs growth had been researched thoroughly. This area is considered one of the most important going forward. So it is good to note the research that has been undertaken to allow you to best help your childs emotional and social development.
4 – Governments and educational establishments are finally embracing the new ideas and funding for educational toys and games in the public sector is at an all time high.
In short. Not only are the benefits of learning through play acknowledged ny just about everyone, it has now been established that it is a very cost effective way of progressing a childs education.
Finally, one issue that still needs addressing;
5 – One sticking point which continually frustrates those who look to progress in the field of educational toys and games. That is the periodic “muddying of the water” that changes in government on a national level make every few years.
It is now become apparent that ownership for the continued research into educational toys and games needs a none-partisan approach. As administrations change in the United Kingdom and the USA, government bodies are restructured and support services for parents and carers aimed at giving advice on education through play are either abolished or re-formed in very different structures every few years.
What is required is a non-political body which has the continuous remit of ensuring that both ongoing research into education through play as well as the resources available to parents and carers are consistent and always reflect the very best possible practices regardless of which political administration is in charge.