Educational Infant Toys

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For everyone, there are a few things that cannot be compromised. For parents, children educational toys is right up there at the top of the list.

Not just any toys, mind you, but educational infant toys.

As soon as you insert that word "educational", parents tend to go overboard and over scrutinize every single thing about the toys wondering if they'll help their infant become a world renowned doctor, engineer, or Nobel prize winner.

It's important to keep things in perspective and not get too carried away with analyzing all the toys. The point is that the infants need to play and almost anything at this age will be "educational". It's all about giving the infants many different experiences and stimulations that fire off those young neurons.

Yes, there are the popular brands like Lamaze and they have some great items, but while you're reading this page, please keep an open mind and see the extensive possibilities available out there.

The Good and the Bad and the Useless

Let's quickly go over some of the key things you'll want to keep in mind when looking at your infant's toys from now on, educational or not.

The Good

For me, the first thing that I look for when looking at a toy is to think about whether or not it's an open ended toy. Like the open ended questions that could elicit variety of answers, open ended toys allow the child to play with it in many different ways.

An example of open ended toy is a building block set or Lego set. These allow the children to use them in multiple ways and encourage the use of imagination to fill in the gaps.

An example of non open ended toy is a telescope. Although it makes for a great science toy it just isn't very conducive to being used as anything else than a telescope. Mind you though, children can imagine all sorts of things using the telescope (e.g., aliens, star systems, space travel, astronomers, other scientists, etc...), but the toy itself is harder to be used for other purpose than the one for which it was intended.

The Bad

Obviously, the number one thing to look for before considering anything else is safety of the toy. Make sure that there are no loose parts that could easily come off with your infant manipulating (and sometimes throwing) it.

Another thing that I now look for is the paint. After the Thomas & Friends recall from RC2, and hearing horror stories, I am now extremely picky on what kind of material or coating the toy has on it.

Especially with an infant, the chances are that the toy will end up in the mouth, so why take any chances?

The Useless

I'm not really supposed to bash educational infant toys. I'm also not really supposed to put down any toys labeled as educational, am I?

Well, I can't help it. I've seen some really useless toys that call themselves educational infant toys and I need to point out a few things that you need to be mindful of.

First, I've seen a wooden building block set selling for double the price of another popular brand. The justification? Harder wood that happened to have higher market price. To me, this was just ludicrous. As long as the popular brand didn't have any severe defects (e.g., splinters, severe warping problems, etc...) I didn't see any reason to buy the more expensive one. An infant sure isn't going to care what kind of wood it's made from.

Don't get suckered into buying things that are marketed to the parents. Keep the focus on your infant. After all, they're not your toys. Cut through the marketing hype and see the product for itself.

Again, the open ended thing. Ever since I got into the toy business, I've seen this curious phenomenon many times from the bg companies. They develop more and more specialized toys that will aid your infant, but in the process, they end up developing too many toys that overlap in their purpose and/or that become so specialized that they don't leave much room for the child to be in charge of the play.

I've seen this more often with electronic toys, which is a big reason why I am not a fan of them.

They are interesting and get your infant's attention when they first light up and make all sorts of noise. But you'll soon see that the toys quickly lose their appeal and they suck away your infant's eagerness to actively participate in the play.

In effect, they make passive participants of your infants. I don't know if there are any studies been done to back this up, but I'm sure in my gut that this can't be too good for the child.

Not much of an educational infant toy, if it takes away the fun of playing or the willingness to play.

Final word

One word of note. Later as the child grows up, it's okay to get more specialized toys to suit her interests. If she's into puzzles, doing them will help with her mental development while keeping her interest. The same goes for craft or science toys. But when it comes to educational infant toys, don't get too specialized.

Stay generalized and when in doubt, go for the classics. Like I said on another page, there's a reason why they're classics.

"education at play"

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