As mentioned previously, educational toys claim to enhance intellectual, social, emotional, and/or physical development. Educational toys are thus designed to encourage reasonable development milestones within appropriate age groups. For preschool age youngsters, simple wooden blocks might be a good starting point for a child to begin to understand causal relationships, basic principles of science (e.g. if a block falls from the top of a structure, it will fall until a surface stops its fall), and develop patience and rudimentary hand-eye coordination. Check out
com to learn more about
natural playgrounds .
For a child moving towards elementary school, other, more sophisticated manipulatives might further aid the development of these skills. Interlocking manipulative toys like Lego or puzzles challenge the child to improve hand-eye coordination, patience, and an understanding of spatial relationships. Finally, a child in elementary school might use very sophisticated construction sets that include moving parts, motors and others to help further understand the complex workings of the world. Importantly, the educational value derived by the child increases when the educational toy is age appropriate.
 Educational toys in the classroom
Entering a classroom, whether one full of preschoolers or school age children, one has no doubt that educational toys are part of the modern educator's curriculum. From manipulatives, to dress up, to board games, to musical instruments, to interactive electronic toys such as robots or turtle roamers, the breadth of educational toys is vast. While it is not uncommon to find computers in the modern elementary school classroom, it is not yet common to find children actively engaged in video games for educational development. However, as computers and video games take an ever larger role in our lives and the lives of children, so too will their role in educational toys and games. This underscores a crucial point about the fluidity of the definition of an educational toy. As the perception of what is "educational" changes, so too will the integration of new toys into our children's classrooms.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, says in Laws:
- "I'm going to explain how one should describe education: It is this I insist that man who intends to be good at a particular occupation must practice it from childhood both at work and at play he must be surrounded by the 'special tools of the trade.'
- We should learn to use the children's games to channel their pleasures and desires towards activities in which they have to engage when they are adult..."