Intelligent educational toys are designed to promote intellectual, physical, social and emotional development, while providing lots of play fun. As children play with educational toys, they seamlessly learn. Children learn in different ways, or have different learning styles. One theory of learning is Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence, which suggests that children learn in seven different ways:
- Visual-Spacial: Children are aware of the physical space and environment and learn through modelling, making, drawing and painting. Educational toys that promote this style of learning include arts & crafts, puzzles and jigsaws, picture books and stories, construction toys and models. Also, learning toys for toddlers include play dough and stacking cubes.
- Bodily-kinaesthetic: Children are aware of body movements and can create and make things with their hands. Arts and crafts toys as well as building kits are fantastic educational toys that encourage kinaesthetic learnings. Educational toys that promote hands-on learning in science and mathematics are essential to facilitate learning more abstract concepts. Also, acting out, where children use their body language to communicate, supports kinaesthetic learning and puppets can make acting out while learning great fun! Educational toys for toddlers include those that promote physical development and fine motor skills toys such as lacing and threading as well as manipulative boards and mazes.
- Verbal-linguistic: Children can use written and spoken words and language well and can think in words. They enjoy reading books, making up stories and poetry and find it easy to memorise information. Children books, both print and audio, as well as activity books and wipe-clean flashcards facilitate seeing, saying and writing words. Also, word games are great educational toys for children that support both oral and written linguistic learning. Picture books and alphabet toys, such as magnetic and wooden letters, are perfect learning toys for toddlers to promote early linguistic skills.
- Logical-mathematical: Children can make calculations and solve abstract problems. They can see patterns and enjoy investigations. A preferred learning style would be through educational toys such as puzzles and games. Numeracy toys and STEM toys (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) support logical and mathematical learning. Counting and sorting learning toys for toddlers develop early numeracy skills and logical thinking.
- Musical: Children are sensitive to sound, rhythm and enjoy music. Audio games, telephone communication games, mix and match sound games as well a sound recording banks are excellent educational toys for toddlers and older children that help to learn through sound. Songs and music, tapping out time or speaking with rhythm can also help children better recall information.
- Intrapersonal: Children who are tuned in with their feelings and understand their interests and goals have strong interpersonal intelligence. Children books and diaries help children reflect and develop interpersonal skills. It is important to give children time to reflect and to help them become autonomous learners, and this can be facilitated by educational toys that promote independent learning.
- Interpersonal: Children learn better hear through interacting with others and they like to engage in dialogue and discussions. Educational toys that promote social skills support this learning style. Learning toys for toddlers include games for two or more players.
To choose the best children’s educational toys depends on the child and their preferred learning style. However, children tend have a mix of learning styles with a preference to two or three styles. Smart educational toys for toddlers and children address multiple learning styles. For example, a construction kit facilities kinaesthetic learning through physically manipulating the building blocks. It also supports spatial learning as children are aware of the dimensionality of the 3D structures they are building. Following step-by-step instructions and counting and sorting the blocks all help with logical and mathematical learning. Furthermore, building structures together with peers encourages interpersonal learning.
As parents and teachers, choosing the best educational toys for toddlers and children doesn’t stop there. Adults play an important role in enabling learning when they are involved in the children’s playing environment. With parents and teachers help, whatever a child’s learning style is, finding the right educational toys and books will help them develop better and learn in the most natural way: playing.