Choosing the Right Educational Toys for Young Children

By Sheena Yong

At Mosaic Kindergarten, we believe that play is the main form of children’s learning and
development. As a play-based school, it is important for us to create purposeful play
opportunities during lesson time and children’s free time through games, toys and
manipulatives they have in class. Being widely exposed to toys, it is important to choose the
appropriate toy that supports the children’s mental and physical development.
To optimise development and learning, it is important to look out for the right
educational toys provided for the appropriate age group and there are factors to consider
when choosing toys for your child. I will be covering the 4 major questions to guide you
along in choosing age appropriate toys for young children.

1. Is the toy safe to play with?

Regardless of the age group, the safety aspect should be considered when purchasing
toys for young children. Ensuring that the manipulatives does not pose danger, such as sharp
edges and small items. Especially for children age 0 – 3 years old, it is advised to look out for
the packaging advices (refer to the sign below) on whether or not it has small parts that could
possibly be choking hazards.

2. Is the toy age appropriate?

In the market, there are many toys out there being advertised and promoted to boost
certain developmental areas for children. However, it is best to choose toys that are most
situated for your child’s current needs. An example would be at ages 2-3 children would
start identifying colours as well as shapes. Hence, purchasing and choosing shape sorter
toys for such age group would be more suitable compared to providing them with Lego
bricks. It is not only because there may be small parts, but also because Lego bricks
require a higher-level thinking skill as well as a higher-level motor skill to fix the Lego
pieces together. Hence, it is important to consider your child ability, what they can do at
the moment before purchasing the toys.
In addition, there is no need to purchase too many toys at one time for your child.

3. Does it cater your child’s interest?

Every child is unique and has a mind of their own. They develop interest in certain
aspects from a very young age. Examples could range from some may love cars, some, a
particular cartoon character or some, music. Choosing toys that interest your child
engages your child for a longer period of time. It also acts as a form of motivation for
them in achieving what they want when playing with a favourable toy. An example will
be a child wanting to construct a complete rail way track with slopes for his favourite
train. By having the motivation and intention to do so, this child will develop cognitive
skills such as problem-solving skills to construct the tracks. In addition, include older
siblings or yourself when your child faces an obstacle encourages your child to
communicate with the more knowledgeable other about the problem, developing
language and social skills.

4. Is the toy open ended?

During play, children are exposed to using their creativity when manipulating with the
toys. Children are passively spending more time in front of screens, limiting the use of
their creativity. Toys on the other hand sparks imagination and creativity. An example
would be if you give your child a stuffed animal, they can turn their surrounding to an
animal hospital, while he/she is a vet. Or, they may look at it as an animal in the zoo,
caging it up with other materials they have at home. There are endless ideas and visions
your child would have and you will find out how creative they can be by providing toys
that are open ended and not a ‘one-way use’ only.

To conclude, there is no ‘right toy’ to search for when shopping for toys for you child. Every
toy has a unique purpose and use. Choosing the ‘right toy’ involves considering the 4 major
factors which are, safety, age and developmentally appropriate, your child’s interest and also
whether the toy lends itself to more than one use. By checking off all the boxes, you will be
sure to have your child not only love you more but no one will pester you when he/she has
nothing to do. Because that toy would become her favourite ‘go-to’ toy!