Growing up, I remember my parents trying their hardest to provide educational and fun toys for me. We’d make a monthly trip to Hobby Lobby or similar store and look over the options for fun. We quickly ran through all of our choices, though. We grew crystals, watched dinosaurs expand in water, made rubbery bugs in a mad scientist lab, and made slime. Eventually, our only options became building models or coming up with our own activities.
Fortunately today, the world of educational toys is huge. Any kind of skill you want a kid to become acquainted with or learn has a toy to accompany it. From STEM to the arts, there is something to make learning fun for kids of all ages, whether they are three or 18.
Learning Programming and Coding
A delightful way to teach kids about computers
As the world becomes more and more reliant on technology, the demand for workers able to program and code will only rise. Learning to code is like learning a second language, and kids can pick it up from an early age.
Both video games and physical toys can teach programming and coding. Toys like Lego Mindstorms and Coji can help kids understand the practical applications of programming and help kids dip their toes in the subject matter. Games like “Robot Turtles” and “Code Masters” give kids an offline way to play and practice programming and coding ideas. There are even video games that can teach the nitty-gritty aspects of coding like “Code Monkey” and “CSS Diner,” both games that use real programming languages in order to play the game.
If you want your kid to pursue a programming career, or at least give them the tools early on to learn the needed skills, look into games and toys like these. Kids as young as 4 years old can start learning the basics of programming.
Building Robots and Learning Engineering
Machine automation is going to play a huge part in the world of industry and manufacturing — meaning robots. People need to learn how to build and operate the robots of the future.
For these skills, there are tons of toys that can teach how to build and operate robots. Depending on your kid’s age and how much money you want to spend, there is a kit for you. Smaller sets basically just require the kid to construct a robot that can accomplish a single task, like moving across a table or drawing on a piece of paper. More complex sets are harder to build and have robots capable of doing multiple different functions. Some sets, like Lego Mindstorms, give kids complex freedom for building their own robots and programming their tasks.
Learning All About Science
Regardless of the science subject, there are toys, kits, and experiments to help get kids interested in science. From creating exciting chemical reactions that are safe and entertaining for kids, to building their own lasers, there is something for every kid.
Games can also teach science principles that might not be as attractive as chemistry or lasers. Video games especially are useful to teach things like physics, astronomy, evolution, biology and more. Even universities are using video games to teach difficult science subjects for their kids, and you should be doing it too.
Toys and Games for the Arts
Not all of the new and flashy toys are just for teaching STEM — the arts is important too. Whether it’s music, theatre, painting, or something else entirely, there are ways to engage with kids and help them learn art skills.
For music, rhythm-based games can help children learn to keep a beat and tempo and manage multiple actions at once. For example, while it doesn’t teach how to actually play the instrument, “Guitar Hero” and similar games can help kids learn skills necessary for mastering instruments.
Theatre and acting games often don’t even need a board to play. Any type of game that encourages children to tell a story or act something out, like Charades or Werewolf (or whatever version you played growing up) can help them learn how to get into character or act something out.
For learning art skills, regardless of platform, there are tons of games and tools. Yes, you can always just hand them a piece of paper and crayons, but helping engage their creative side through different mediums can do a world of good. Apps of tablets can let them experiment with new ways to draw, and games can help guide them on learning new techniques. One that really stands out is Nintendo’s “Pokemon Art Academy” game for the Nintendo DS. Kids can learn basic techniques that artists use in sketching while drawing their favorite Pokemon.
Helping Kids Learn Through Fun
Learning doesn’t have to be difficult, boring, or stressful. Most children learn best through having fun because it doesn’t feel like work. By playing games to introduce kids to new subjects, it can spark their curiosity to learn more. By harnessing that passion, they can learn important skills early on that will be useful for the rest of their lives.