When we are looking for educational toys and games for our children, it is always helpful to know what children are like at the various stages of their development.

During infancy, nearly everything a baby can touch, taste, smell, see, hear or feel is a learning experience, but there really are very few educational toys and games for a child of this age, with the following exceptions: language ‘games’. Learning language, even from birth, is of extreme importance to your baby’s mental development and preparation for school. Talk to your baby!! If you name objects many times a day, these objects become his ‘educational toys and games’! Your baby is learning to associate a particular sound with the particular object, whether it is a toy, or baby’s feet during bath time, or your nose (and baby’s nose), and so forth.

You can also talk about activities throughout the day, every day. The repetition of words is key. Our babies recognize many words long before they can speak even a single word. How would your baby ever know to say “mama” or “dada” if you did not repeat these words hundreds of times?

I remember when my first-born learned the word for moon. There was a favorite soft book of his, with dozens of pictures that we would look at together, every day, saying the word of each object. When he was about 16 months, there was a full moon in a clear sky. We went out on the porch to enjoy the early evening, and he spotted the moon. His enthusiasm was immense, as he alternated his little feet in a fast dance, and pointed to the sky exclaiming, “Moon, moon, moon!!” This was the first time he had ever said the word.

As your baby gets older, educational toys and games are in abundance. Blocks, crayons, easy puzzles, hand puppets, stacking toys, mobiles, and so on, all help to develop motor skills, spatial awareness, recognition of various sounds, and language skills if baby has ‘talking’ company for some of the time when he is engaged in play. Of all the toys your pre-school child might have, their value will be enhanced dramatically by your participation in his play, with spoken words, words, words! Language skills are further increased by naming the surroundings, the travels from one room or one place to another, and so forth.

Educational toys and games are a big part of your child’s early years when they are fun! Babies and children are naturally curious, from the first few weeks of life. They are hungry to learn. But the keyword is “fun”. We should not try to teach letters and reading and math until a child is ready to learn, and this is generally not during the preschool years, even though there are some exceptions. Follow the child’s lead, and if she points to a magnetic letter on the refrigerator and says its name, we can applaud and share in her enthusiasm.

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