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    • The Importance of Educational Toys for Kids

      Educational toys are the best way for your child to learn and have fun. Find out which are the best toys to aid your child’s development here. Think play time is just for fun? Think again! Allowing your kids, whether they’re babies, toddlers or big kids to play with open-ended, educational toys allows them to grow and develop essential abilities. From the moment they first open their eyes, your child’s playtime plays an essential role in helping them develop social, linguistic, physical and cognitive skills. Playing is the perfect way to develop their young minds and to prepare them for the world around them. What makes a good educational toy? The key to optimising playtime is choosing the right educational toy for your kid’s unique interests and stage of development. The best educational toys for three month olds aren’t the best educational toys for 6 year olds, and vice versa. As you child moves through different ages they need learning-oriented toys that can teach them the different skills they’re lacking. Kids develop in different ways, at different times, so toys should always be geared towards their personal developmental level. Their toys should also be interactive, challenging and open-ended. This means that there isn’t just one solution to the challenge the toy provides, but that there are multiple solutions and outcomes to games that encourage children’s creativity and boost their imagination. These are five of the emotional and intellectual benefits your child will see through playing with educational toys. 1. Educational toys develop your child’s imagination More “practical” skills like numbers, colours and shape recognition will greatly help your kids come school time, but their long term ability to be able to think creatively and “outside of the box” will be of great benefit to them in their future life. Toys that encourage imagination will help to develop your little one’s self-expression. Encourage your little one to play make-believe, to dress up and to take an interest in storytelling. Role-play toys are also great for encouraging imagination as there are so many outcomes and possibilities while playing, helping kids use their imaginations and embrace their budding creativity. These toys are usually easily shared with friends or siblings, so kiddies enjoy hours of pretend-play fun together. 2. Educational toys help your child unleash their artistic abilities Artistic toys help children learn about colours, size, perspective and hone their musical appreciation and rhythm. Artistic toys are also great for bolstering self-esteem, improving hand-eye coordination and brain development. Toy instruments are perfect for little kiddies that have a love of music. Helping them to develop an interest in music at an earlier stage does wonders for their creative intelligence. Arts and crafts toys, like playdough and modelling kits and drawing, colouring and painting materials, are all great way to encourage your to be more creative and open the door to even more artistic hobbies down the line. Art toys can also go a long way in helping your kid articulate and work through their thoughts and emotions visually, especially if they’re a naturally a little shyer and more introverted. 3. Educational toys develop your child’s critical thinking skills Exposing children to logical reasoning at a young age can help a child develop their understanding of cause and effect and to learn and draw connections between pieces of information in the future. Toys like jigsaw puzzles and building blocks are great examples of logical reasoning-based toys. 4. Educational toys teach kids problem-solving skills Problem solving is seen as the most difficult intellectual functions to grasp, but early experiences with the correct toys can expose children to problem solving early on. This makes them more adept at tackling problems once they start school. Perfect toys for this would be stackable toys and shape sorters that challenge your child to think laterally. Early practice also helps kids to overcome the emotional fear and stigma of failure as they face difficulties in future life. Activity centres are ideal for developing problem solving skills from an early age. Your child can build worlds designed by their imagination, with the table providing a handy platform for independent play. These are also usually portable, so great for playtime learning on the go. Construction toys, like LEGO sets, can be used to assemble different models, including a truck, a motorcycle, a speedboat, a robot, a helicopter, and anything else they can imagine. 5. Educational toys enhance memorisation Memory is among one of the most important intellectual skills a child can have. It directly affects all other intellectual processes. However, memory is also the easiest mental process to grow and improve on. Good memory skills give your child confidence and enrich their desire to learn and see new things. Playing games like “Simon Says” and “I Spy” are great ways to develop memory skills in very young children. There are also some great toys which can help with memory development, like card and board games that encourage memory skills in older children. (ref:

    • The Benefits of Play for Adults

      Just because we’re adults, that doesn’t mean we have to make life all about work. Learn how play can benefit your relationships, job, and mood. The importance of adult play In our hectic, modern lives, many of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stopped playing. When we carve out some leisure time, we’re more likely to zone out in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun, rejuvenating play like we did as children. But play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets, and children is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being. Adult play is a time to forget about work and commitments, and to be social in an unstructured, creative way. Play could be simply goofing off with friends, sharing jokes with a coworker, throwing a Frisbee on the beach, dressing up on Halloween with your kids, building a snowman in the yard, playing fetch with a dog, acting out charades at a party, or going for a bike ride with your spouse with no destination in mind. There doesn’t need to be any point to the activity beyond having fun and enjoying yourself. By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, you can reap oodles of health benefits throughout life. The benefits of play While play is crucial for a child’s development, it is also beneficial for people of all ages. Play can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable. You can play on your own or with a pet, but for greater benefits, play should involve at least one other person, away from the sensory-overload of electronic gadgets. Play helps: Relieve stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression. Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—a principle that applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and solve problems. Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to include a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships. Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best. Play and relationships Play is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Playing together brings joy, vitality, and resilience to relationships. Play can also heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Through regular play, we learn to trust one another and feel safe. Trust enables us to work together, open ourselves to intimacy, and try new things. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships—as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends. Play helps develop and improve social skills. Social skills are learned as part of the give and take of play. During childhood play, kids learn about verbal communication, body language, boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork. As adults, you continue to refine these skills through play and playful communication. Play teaches cooperation with others. Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. Through play, children learn how to “play nicely” with others—to work together, follow mutually agreed upon rules, and socialize in groups. As adults, you can continue to use play to break down barriers and improve your relationships with others. Play can heal emotional wounds. As adults, when you play together, you are engaging in exactly the same patterns of behavior that positively shape the brains of children. These same playful behaviors that predict emotional health in children can also lead to positive changes in adults. If an emotionally-insecure individual plays with a secure partner, for example, it can help replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive assumptions and actions. Fixing relationship problems with humor and play Play and laughter perform an essential role in building strong, healthy relationships by bringing people closer together, creating a positive bond, and resolving conflict and disagreements. In new relationships, play and humor can be an effective tool not just for attracting the other person but also for overcoming any awkwardness or embarrassment that arises during the dating and getting-to-know-you process. Flirting is a prime example of how play and humor are used in adult interactions. In longer-term relationships, play can keep your connection exciting, fresh and vibrant, while also deepening intimacy. It can also help you overcome differences and the tiny aggravations that may build up over time. Play at work Many dot-com companies have long recognized the link between productivity and a fun work environment. Some encourage play and creativity by offering art or yoga classes, throwing regular parties, providing games such as Foosball or ping pong, or encouraging recess-like breaks during the workday for employees to play and let off steam. These companies know that more play at work results in more productivity, higher job satisfaction, greater workplace morale, and a decrease in employees skipping work and staff turnover. If you’re fortunate enough to work for such a company, embrace the culture; if your company lacks the play ethic, you can still inject your own sense of play into breaks and lunch hours. Keep a camera or sketch pad on hand and take creative breaks when you can. Joke with coworkers during coffee breaks, relieve stress at lunch by shooting hoops, playing cards, or completing word puzzles together. It can strengthen the bond you have with your coworkers as well as improve your job performance. For people with mundane jobs, maintaining a sense of play can make a real difference to the work day by helping to relieve boredom. Using play to boost productivity and innovation Success at work doesn’t depend on the amount of time you work; it depends upon the quality of your work. And the quality of your work is highly dependent on your well-being. Taking the time to replenish yourself through play is one of the best ways you can help your career. When the project you’re working on hits a serious glitch, take some time out to play and have a few laughs. Taking a pause for play does a lot more than take your mind off the problem. When you play, you engage the creative side of your brain and silence your “inner editor,” that psychological barrier that censors your thoughts and ideas. This can often help you see the problem in a new light and think up fresh, creative solutions. Playing at work: · keeps you functional when under stress · refreshes your mind and body · encourages teamwork · increases energy and prevents burnout · triggers creativity and innovation · helps you see problems in new ways Playing with your children Rolling on the floor with your baby or getting down on your knees to play with a young child is vitally important—both to your child’s development and to your own health. Play is essential for developing social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills in children. In fact, far from being a waste of time or just a fun distraction, play is a time when your child is often learning the most. Whether it’s an infant playing “peek-a-boo,” a toddler playing make-believe, or an older child playing a board game, play develops social skills, stimulates a child’s imagination and makes kids better adjusted, smarter, and less stressed. As well as aiding your child’s development, play can also bring you closer together and strengthen the parent-child bond that will last a lifetime. How to play with your child While children need time to play alone and with other children, playing with their parents is also important. Here are some helpful tips to encourage play: Establish regular play times. It may be for twenty minutes before dinner every night or every Saturday morning, for example. Remember, this time spent playing together is benefiting both of you. Give your child your undivided attention. Turn off the TV and your cell phone and make time to play with your child without distraction. Having your undivided attention makes your child feel special. Get down to your child’s level. That may mean getting down on your knees or sitting on the floor. Match your child’s intensity during play—if your child is loud and energetic, be loud and energetic, too. Embrace repetition. It may be boring to you, but it’s not to your child. Children learn through repetition. Let your child play the same game over and over. Your child will move on when he or she is ready. Let your children take the lead. Become part of their game rather than trying to dictate the play. In pretend play, let your child call the shots, make the rules, and determine the pace of play. Ask questions and follow along—you’ll likely get drawn into imaginative new worlds that are fun for you, too. Don’t force play or try to prolong a game. The best way to teach a new skill is to show children how something works, then step back and give them a chance to try it. When your child grows tired of an activity, it’s time to move on to something new. Make play age-appropriate and consider safety. If a game is too hard or too easy, it loses its sense of pleasure and fun. Help your child find age-appropriate activities and understand any safety rules for play. Nothing ruins a fun game faster than a child getting hurt. How to play more Incorporating more fun and play into your daily life can improve the quality of your relationships, as well as your mood and outlook. Even in the most difficult of times, taking time away from your troubles to play or laugh can go a long way toward making you feel better. It’s true what they say: laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter makes you feel good. And the positive feeling that comes from laughter and having fun remains with you even after the giggles subside. Play and laughter help you retain a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. Develop your playful side It’s never too late to develop your playful, humorous side. If you find yourself limiting your playfulness, it’s possible that you’re self-conscious and concerned about how you’ll look and sound to others when attempting to be lighthearted. Fearing rejection, embarrassment or ridicule when trying to be playful is understandable. Adults often worry that being playful will get them labeled as childish. But what is so wrong with that? Children are incredibly creative, inventive and are constantly learning. Wouldn’t you want to be childish if that is the definition? Remember that as a child, you were naturally playful; you didn’t worry about the reactions of other people. You can reclaim your inner child by setting aside regular, quality playtime. The more you play, joke, and laugh—the easier it becomes. Try to clear your schedule for an afternoon or evening, for example, and then turn off your phone, TV, computer, and other devices. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want for the time you’ve allotted. Be spontaneous, set aside your inhibitions and try something fun, something you haven’t done since you were a kid, perhaps. And enjoy the change of pace. Creating opportunities to play Host a regular game night with friends or family. Arrange nights out with work colleagues: bowling, playing pool, miniature golf, or singing karaoke. Schedule time in a park or at the beach to throw a Frisbee or fly a kite with friends. Play with a pet. Puppies, especially, make very willing playmates. If you don’t have your own, borrow one from your local animal shelter. Surround yourself with playful people. They’ll help loosen you up and are more likely to support your efforts to play and have fun. Joke with strangers at a bus stop or in a checkout line. It’ll make the time pass quicker and you may even spark up new friendships. Visit a magic store and learn some tricks. Or invest in art supplies, construction toys, or science kits and create something new. Play with children. Goofing around with kids helps you experience the joy of play from their perspective. If you don’t have young children, arrange a play date with your grandkids, nephews, nieces, or other young relatives. (Ref:

    • Guide to Toys (Age-by-Age)

      What's the best toy for an infant vs. a toddler? Before you go holiday shopping, check out our list that matches developmental stages of play with toys that work well for kids at each age. How They Play: 0-12 Months For the first three months, your baby is not able to do much more than observe his/her surroundings. Because her vision is still blurry, she sees bright, boldly patterned items best. "Toys don't have to be black and white so long as the colors contrast with each other," says Nora Newcombe, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at Temple University, in Philadelphia. As your baby grows, baby'll enjoy toys that engage his/her other senses as well. That's why so many toys are designed to promote interaction in a variety of ways: They may make a squeaking or crinkling noise, have a nubby texture, and be soft and cuddly. Infants tend to mouth toys, and textured ones can help relieve teething pain. Top Toys: Brightly colored, multipatterned crib mobiles (Note: Remove from crib once your baby can sit up) Rattles Unbreakable mirrors Floor gyms Activity boards Soft, washable, colorful stuffed animals or dolls with a smiling face Small stuffed fabric balls How They Play: 1-2 Years "Your baby is fascinated by cause and effect and will enjoy any toy that responds to his actions and makes use of newly acquired motor skills," says psychologist Robin Goodman, Ph.D., director of NYU Child Study Center. For instance, he/she'll love toys that allow him/her to hit a ball with a hammer as well as toys with buttons that cause music to play or characters to pop up. Some high-tech toys for this age will name a letter, a shape, or a number when your baby presses a button. He/she's too young to actually learn his ABCs, but he'll still enjoy interacting with these toys and being exposed to language. Top Toys: Stacking rings Nesting cups or boxes Push- or pull-toys that make noise or have pieces that pop up or move Hammering sets that let kids hammer pegs or balls through holes Simple, sturdy musical instruments like tambourines, drums, or maracas Shape sorters Large play vehicles, such as a school bus or a fire engine, plus plastic people that ride in them Puzzles with four or five pieces Rubber ducks or toy boats for bath time. How They Play: 2-3 Years Your child's play is now more purposeful, and he/she has the fine motor skills needed to complete a puzzle or build with blocks by herself. He/She'll start to enjoy pretend play that imitates the actions of people around her. He/She'll like high-tech toys that make real-life sounds, such as telephones that ring or dolls that talk. No matter how politically correct you are, your child will probably play in a gender-stereotypical way—at least some of the time, Dr. Newcombe says. A boy may use his dump truck to scoop up sand, while a girl might pretend to feed her doll and put it down for a nap. Boys and girls are both very active at this age and will still enjoy their push- and pull-toys. You can also introduce a ride-on toy: Start with one that your child can propel with both feet, and move up to a tricycle. Top Toys: Dolls and stuffed animals Props for make-believe play, such as toy telephone, a tea-party set, a toy kitchen, or a doll stroller Ride-on toys and tricycles Musical instruments (especially popular are those with flashing lights on the keys that your child needs to press in order to play a tune) Large transportation toys with buttons to make a horn honk or a siren whistle Puzzles Construction toys that snap together How They Play: 4-5 Years There's a tremendous explosion in learning ability at this age, and it's a good time to introduce interactive educational Toy that teach math and verbal skills, such as phonics boards or mini computers. "Choose toys that say positive things like 'Good job. Let's try again' instead of ones that make negative beeping noises whenever kids get an answer wrong," suggests Marianne Szymanski, president of Kids are now able to imagine that they're someone else and may fantasize about being airplane pilots, police officers, doctors, or teachers. Top Toys: Art supplies and craft kits Blocks of different shapes Electronic phonics toys Construction sets with large pieces, such as Legos or Lincoln Logs Puzzles of greater complexity Action figures Barbies Dress-up clothes Transportation toys, such as parking garages, airports, and train stations Board games that don't require reading, such as Hungry Hungry Hippos, Yahtzee Jr., or Candyland Soccer balls and basketballs Bicycles with training wheels How They Play: 6-7 Years Your child is developing his own interests while learning from both his teachers and peers. Some kids like doing science experiments (with your help); others love making beaded jewelry or playing with dolls. Friends are becoming increasingly important, and your child will start asking for a particular toy (if he/she hasn't already) because "everyone else has it." This is the age when kids often become huge fans of computer games, but they also enjoy having their friends over to play sports, card games, and board games. Many like music-related toys but the playing of actual instruments can still be difficult. (If your kid’s toys require batteries, always keep long-lasting AA and AA in the house—we like Duracell etc.) Top Toys: Remote-control cars Basic science kits Magnets, magnifying glasses, and telescopes Craft kits Barbies Game Boys Computer and video games Construction sets, such as Legos or K'Nex Sports equipment Board games that involve strategy, including chess and checkers How They Play: 8+ Years Kids this age enjoy outdoor sports as well as scooters, bicycles, and in-line skates. They acquire adult-like interests, abilities, and hobbies and may display a passion by becoming a collector. Girls still love doing crafts and writing in diaries, and boys find computer and video games irresistible. "These years are all about doing things that give kids a sense of mastery and competence," Szymanski says. "With computer and video games, kids can challenge themselves to get a better score than they did the time before," she says. "They enjoy competing with their friends, and you'll hear a lot of 'I got this score—what score did you get?' " Kids also like working on longer projects, some of which might take days to complete. Top Toys: Computer and video games Craft kits More elaborate science kits Outdoor sporting equipment Intricate construction sets Board games like Scrabble, Monopoly, and Trivial Pursuit Junior Model kits (ref:

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