The Toys Directive defines toys as goods designed and intended for use by children under the age of 14. Most researchers have also agreed that there are no educational toys, it is about how they are used in play and whether they contribute educationally or not to children’s learning.
Mr.Krister Svensson, Director of the International Toy Research Centre in Stockholm has gone a step further “I question the whole concept of an educational toy,’” he said. ‘”Toys don’t teach cognitive or motor skills; they just encourage children to practice them.”
What has been found through research and various studies is that open ended material is most educational. Open ended materials means, material that is not finished and that can have several uses. These toys are the ones that contribute most to interaction and dialogue and also to development.
Open-ended materials have multiple uses and limitless possibilities, there are no rules to follow, no expectations, no specific problems to solve and no pressure to produce a finished product. Children can create a purpose for open ended toys and use it as they wish. In contrast to, closed-ended material, that has a determined outcome, a not right answer or right way to complete and finish. The single-function closed-ended toys become boring very quickly; they don’t encourage creativity, imagination, or problem-solving abilities.Simple toys offer more learning opportunities to children than complex toys and the more ways a child can play with a toy, the more he will learn.
To choose sturdy, high quality, long lasting open-ended toys are more cost-effective and sustainable, open-ended toys does not diminish; the play is simply reinvented by children.
Examples of open ended play material:
Bricks included Lego and Duplo for construction play. Develops children’s hand eye coordination, early math and engineering skills through hands on learning, spatial awareness,improves fine motor skills, problemsolving, phantasy, creativity, social skills, language and science.
Material for role play and imaginary play like pretend kitchens with utensils, dolls, soft toys, dress up clothes, doll houses, material for different kind of profession plays like shop, bakery, hairdresser etc, help children process the world around them and encouraging, language development. Social and emotional abilities are developed as children role-play with “what-if” possibilities they also learn empathy, cooperation problem solving, and leadership skills through make-believe play.
Art supplies such as paper, crayons, markers, paints, and scissors glue, tape, loose parts etc. Develop fine motor skills, increases dexterity, improves hand-eye coordination, boost self esteem, encourages self expression, socializing and language, promotes innovation,creativity and phantasy, enhances decision-making skills.
Sand and sandboxes are good, both for construction and pretend play. Shovels big and small, buckets, small pots etc.
Outdoor play and outdoor equipment like balls, swing ropes, hula rings, climbing opportunities etc. exercise children’s big motor skills, coordination, balance, prevent obesity, relief stress and increase physical activity. The outdoor material can also be used as props in pretend play outside.
Loose parts are any collection of natural or manmade objects that can be used into children’s play. There are seven types of loose parts are:-Nature Based -Wood Reuse -Plastic –Metal Ceramic/Glass -Fabric/Ribbon –Packaging
But children also need some close ended ( close-ended toys have a clear ending point ) material like jigsaw puzzles and board games.
Jigsaw puzzles develop concentration, spatial awareness, shape recognition, hand and eye coordination, problem solving, language, memory and social skills.
Board games like Lotto, Card games, Dice Games etc. develop children’s fine motor skills, cognitive skills, social skills, taking turns, problem-solving, controlling emotions, winning and losing, patience, following rules and working together. Children also learn colour recognition, numbers and counting, shape recognition, image and word recognition, pattern identification, and matching and memory skills.
Accessories as small play people, animals, and transport vehicles etc. accessories are important in play especially in dramatic play and block/construction play. Accessories stimulate language, interactions, creativity and fantasy.
As “facilitators of play” we need to
- provide inspiring indoor and outdoor play environments, they are an opportunity for learning
- provide stimulating and attractive materials to enhance and entice children into play.
- carefully consider age and developmental levels in the design of the play areas and in the selection of materials.
- organize the material so it is easy for children to overview.
- inspect the material on regularly basis.
- remove broken play material, broken materials even can be dangerous to play with. especially for small children.
The more ways a child can play with a toy, the more he will learn.”