By Elizabeth Thomas
During my first year of homeschooling, I realized that play has an important role in our children’s education. I also discovered that the kind of toys we had in our home could make a huge difference.
If you are like me and have girls, you may find toys in your house like: My Little Pony, Zhu Zhu Pets, Brat Dolls, Polly Pockets, etc. These are all OK toys — don’t get me wrong — but my advice is to save your money and think a little more simple and educational. Your kids will love you for it in the end.
I try to use toys with my girls as much as possible. We play math games on the driveway with chalk. I have used wood blocks to teach shapes to my three-year-old daughter, as well as manipulatives for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and even algebra and geometry with the older girls. Paper dolls can be dressed up like Puritans, Vikings, police officers, nurses, doctors, and more. You have to start thinking like your child to find ways to teach them something they think they don’t want to learn. What better way than with a little fun and lots of toys, toys, toys?!
Toys can play many roles throughout your school day. So when your children lose interest in the textbooks and seem to be daydreaming, surprise them with a toy. Throw it into your lesson! After all, we want them to love learning.
Remember, my children’s ages range from three to 12 — all girls — but they also have male cousins who are homeschooled and show up from time to time to join us. So I keep a range of toys around to cover all our bases.
Here are my suggestions for toys that are helpful, educational and fun to play with. I have many of these toys in my home:
- Paper dolls
- Shape sorters
- Chalkboards and chalk
- Sidewalk chalk
- Art supplies
- A large mirror
- Dress-up clothes
- Mr. Potato Head
- Magnetic letters, numbers
- Frigit refrigerator toys and magnetic gears
- Toy cars and garage items
- Toy doctor’s kit
- Play Dough with cookie cutters
- Stacking cups
- Doll house
- Toy barn
- Large variety of plastic animals: zoo, farm, sea life, dinosaurs, etc.
- Board games (peg-board, checkers and chess, Monopoly, etc.)
- Balls (all sizes)
- Toy kitchen with play dishes and food
- Toy money and register
- Flash cards
- Coloring books
- Reading books
- Foam bath letters and numbers
Try to stay away from battery-operated toys — you are looking for creativity, not distraction. However, I do like Leap Frog toys.