How Toys Teach

Thanks to WestCoast Families who published this great article in their magazine. We wanted to share it with you on our Toy Talk blog:

West Coast Families knows that The Granville Island Toy Company takes great pride in selecting the items they put on their shelves. Everything they bring in is hand selected. When evaluating which toys to purchase for their stores, there is always a common thread: toys that teach. Is there a teaching component that involves life skills such as communication, cooperation, problem solving, planning and strategy, logical thinking and cause and effect?

For The Granville Island Toy Company, great toys are those that they define as Open-Ended, Interactive and Creative. Not only do these toys help entertain, but they also challenge kids to use their brains and explore their imaginations.
Take a doll, for example. What do children do with dolls? They give the doll a voice (communication). They may play with their dolls with a friend (communication and cooperation). The child may set up a tea party and decide who’s going to sit where (planning and strategy). In wanting to mimic the lives of adults, the child will take on a role of “responsibility” for their dolly. If the doll cries, the child is also learning about cause and effect.

Construction toys are another great example of how a toy can teach. Along with encouraging a child to use their imagination, construction toys are also great teachers of planning and strategy, problem solving, logical thinking, and cause and effect. For example, when a child opens up a construction toy, (s)he immediately builds the model that the set is designed for (following directions=logical thinking). If an error is made along the way, the child now has to figure out how to get back on track (problem solving). Eventually the child may decide to build something new (planning and strategy) and may have to make changes along the way (problem solving again). If the project has moving pieces and is built successfully, now the child is learning about cause and effect.

Get out there and test it out with your kids! As parents, we’re all guilty of saying “go play with your toys” so that we can accomplish some of our own tasks. There’s nothing wrong with that – as adults, we sometimes need a few minutes of our own too but every now and again, we like to encourage parents to participate in their kids play, whether it’s watching or actively playing a role. Just when you think you’ve figured out exactly what it is your child likes or what their interests are, they change.
Being involved in your child’s play from time to time can really help you understand your child’s growing abilities, as well as help you reinforce the learning you hope they achieve. And chances are good, you’ll have fun too. As The Granville Island Toy Company says, “We don’t cease to play because we grow old, we grow old because we cease to play”. (G.B Shaw)