Children are always going to play, so the only question is what they’re going to play with. And that can make all the difference in terms of their mental development.
When you’re buying toys for children (up to about age 12), think about how much they stimulate the imagination. If a toy just does something by itself at the push of a button, what real challenge is there for the child’s brain? Contrast that with educational toys, construction sets, building blocks, magnetic building sets and the like: toys that stimulate the imagination and allow children to be creative.
It’s especially beneficial for children three to six years old to play with toys that allow them to solve problems – toys that have a lot of pieces, with different shapes and colors, dimensions and other features that enable them to be sorted, assembled, etc.
Giving a young child long, uninterrupted periods of free play time (at least 45 to 60 minutes) with the right toys creates a stimulating environment that increases his or her ability to learn by 25%. But even with as little as 15 minutes of free play time, a child is learning some basic math concepts and spatial principles.
One fun way to challenge a child’s imagination is with magnetic sets. Magnetic sets can be as simple as stick and stack magnet tiles or more complex magnetic sets that children can use to construct buildings. There are magnetic train sets, educational magnetic toys and other choices that both entertain and educate those young, developing minds.
And, the more mentally involved a child can be with a toy, the less an adult needs to be part of the process. So it’s okay for Mom or Dad to do other things, knowing that those special minutes of play time are also learning time.