There are many educational toys on the market, but they're often pricey. Yet, as parents, we want to buy toys for our children that build their minds as well as entertain their personalities. There are some "can't live without them" educational toys, and then there are many that can be made at home. Try to find some cheaper alternatives to learning.
Forget the plastic coins and paper money found at educational toy aisles. Instead, take children shopping and put some real coins in their hands. Let your child pay for small items at the store and ask him/her to calculate the change ahead of time. It's not as much work when its has some real world meaning. Each evening, lay coins on the table and ask your children to count out their lunch money. Be sure to offer a different assortment of coins each time to build math skills.
Many card and board games require math skills during play. Make these regular staples at family game night.
Puzzles are essential motor and special skill builders. Pick up some puzzles at the discount store and pass them on to children. Introduce them to their own puzzle creation as well. Have them cut pictures out of magazines and cut them into geometrical shapes. Then, piece them back together in puzzle fashion.
For children who have trouble solving puzzles and get frustrated, pick up a Sharpie and number each piece once the puzzle is in place. This will help to build math skills as well. When the child attempts the puzzle, the answer lies in putting the pieces in numerical (or try the alphabet!) order. It will build the basic visual puzzle skills without frustration.
Arts and crafts build fine motor skills. Beading is a great way to practice patterns and finger dexterity. It's also a great way to teach children to make their own gifts.
Encourage children to create crafts using small pieces, scissors, and/or tweezers. This also builds fine motor skills and attention to detail.
An essential for educational game playing is the latch and lace game. Often built out of wood, the latch game asks children to open doors with various latches to see surprises behind them. Lace toys ask children to use colored laces around shapes to practice threading and sewing skills.
While purchased lace and latch games aren't at the top of the educational expense pyramid, these games can be made at home. With a quick visit to the home improvement store, various latches from the hardware aisle can be purchased and attached to a painted board. A pair of old shoes painted brightly with acrylic paint or sturdy fabric cut into interesting shapes can become a lace game in a snap.
Some board games are family essentials. Classic games such as Boggle and Scrabble teach spelling and word building skills (and math skills for the scorekeeper!) Zingo is another new game that's fun for toddlers without being overly educational.
When playing any game, alter the family rules to be educationally beneficial. If two dice are rolled, don't allow children to count their spaces but instead ask them to add the two dice and then count the total. For games that require reading, assign someone the job of handing out chance cards and reading them to the group rather than letting each player choose a card.
Remember, the complex rules of board games build a variety of skills, and the often criticized video games can be useful in building eye-hand coordination. Ultimately, some parental guidance and ingenuity can create a closetful of educational toys.
About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at http://www.kellybutterbaugh.com
I too just give my children the real money to pay for items at the store. In fact, I give them the money before hand (like $3) and if they are good while shopping, I let them choose something that they want but they cannot spend over the amount that they have. Beth shaffer
One of the most educational things you can give your child is the experience of seeing you make a toy for them. I had a father who made everything, but I didn't have a lot of toys, I had the richness of seeing you could make what you wanted and needed and that was as entertaining as any toy, in fact more so. I also can make pretty much what I want or need. Give me a sheep needing a haircut and I'll give you a coat.
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