One of the hot toys for Christmas this year is the Leappad explorer tablet. It is an Ipad like device made for children ages 4-9. The leappad is marketed as an educational toy, meant to help children learn while having fun. The educational toy market has exploded over the last decade. Parents can walk down any aisle of the local toy store and find numerous toys claiming to increase learning in children.
I have never been a big fan of educational toys. I am particularly wary of educational toys that take a video game, or computer like device and attempt to infuse it with educational material. It is not that I don’t believe that children can learn from these devices. I am just not convinced that these devices will teach my children more important lessons than other less technologically driven toys.
The national toy hall of fame has been inducting toys into its hall since 1998. Some of the inductees are the jump rope, jig saw puzzle, alphabet blocks, the ball, and the cardboard box. Now these are educational toys! These classic toys will not teach your children facts or figures that are helpful for them at school. However, they will teach them the social, problem solving, and critical thinking skills that will make them successful in relationships.
I think todays new educational toys prey on a parents desire to help their child achieve “the American dream”. They tell us that without this educational tool our children will fall behind and never be able to compete in the world economy. They tell us that the most important thing to learn is academic. I believe however that the most important things for our children to learn are relational. The relational skills developed when playing with interactive classic toys will help them to be truly successful. They will learn the skills necessary to be good friends, parents, and citizens.
(in the spirit of full disclosure. My boys do have a leapster 2. Sometimes they prefer the cardboard boxes.)