best-toys-new-logoThis time of the year is when parents and extended family members start asking questions about what to get the kids for Christmas. When they’re in our care naturally parents are looking for games and toys to help achieve their children’s goals – so in turn Lisa and I are often asked the same question – “What toys can we get that will be best for our children?”

So this week, we thought it was a good time to take care of that question!

We all want our children to have the best, and those toys and games that tout being educational and look so great from an adult’s perspective look very tempting – AND EXPENSIVE!

Have you noticed that how that label “educational” or “special needs” inflates the price of a game or toy? Aggravating!! And so unnecessary!!

Now some can be great in the right little hands but the thing is, some of those educational toys just aren’t worth the money they ask because unless they entice and interest the child – you’re not going to see the benefit!

Interestingly the share of educational toys in the worldwide toy market has been growing for years – pushing earlier reading, writing and arithmetic – flying in the face of all the best research.

The kids know though…How many times have you found that neat toy or game your child received for birthday or Christmas end up in the back of the cupboard or under the bed gathering dust??

While the temptation (and pressure) for us to rush our kids towards adulthood is huge and very real. We can best serve our children with providing them “power tools for learning” with toys and games that build children natural problem solving capacities in the real world and also allow them to playfully experiment with engaging technologies.

We support the use of technological playthings in a thoughtful way as apart of an overall play diet that includes three dimensional play in the natural world. As adaptive beings in the 21st century our children need us to act as guides to their use and exploration of technology in a way that’s respectful of their brain development as well as their technical skills.

So what’s the big deal about toys? Well, they can be the power tools of childhood. Since you’re listening to this podcast, I’m assuming that I’m talking to the choir when I say that play is the work of childhood. It’s not just a way that they occupy their time, but is vitally important to their learning and development in all areas.

It’s how they learn about themselves and their environment – each child discovers the world anew. Through daily play, children learn to manipulate and master body, mind, emotions and relationships. As children play, vital neural connections are formed in the brain.

Did you know that it’s so important to the very young infant that inadequate play experiences and interactions throughout the first  years of life can lead to failure to thrive and cognitive delays?

The quality and quantity of any type of child’s play is determined by their developmental level, which is in turn reliant on a wide range of experiences (this can be tough for children who self-limit their play or have experienced neglect or serious illness or injury).

As children develop, they move through increasingly complex stages of development with mirroring stages of play. We never completely leave behind any of these stages but build on them and return to them as needed throughout our lives.

So getting back to those toy choices…to support that healthy diet of wide and varied play, children need toys and games that interest them and help them extend their skills willingly. The right tools and materials, in a loving and supportive environment can make a big difference in the choices children make in play and how their brains and bodies develop.

As living beings children are shaped by the things they love and the things they fear – just as we continue to be. We seek to repeat experiences that bring us pleasure for whatever reason, and avoid those things that bring us pain (hopefully) – and over time, we develop strategies to deal with those preferences.

Your children’s choice of activities and the toys they enjoy are formed by their perceptions of themselves, and how pleasant, or difficult, comfortable, or painful something is for them to do. These attitudes, feeling and beliefs are in large part formed by how their internal world is processing experience for them.

So before you head out to do your Christmas, birthday and holiday toy shopping – it’s not only helpful, but important to really look at those toy shelves from your child’s inner perspective.

If I did that with you now, we would be here all day…but if you want to learn more about that inner world and how to look at toys and games in a different way, follow the link with this podcast to “The Smart Parent’s Guide” – our full colour e-manual will show you the way.

In the meantime, when you are shopping, keep these key ideas in mind about making those toy selections. Make sure they:

  • Meet your child where they are, rather than where you want them to be.
  • Build on your child’s strengths and interests that extend them from there & in their non-preferred areas.
  • Are fun & engaging.
  • Are adaptable.
  • Are durable.
  • Are good value

If you’re looking for more information, we suggest purchasing a copy of our book “The Smart Parent’s Guide”

Happy shopping!