The majority of today’s kids are pretty tech-savvy. Almost before they can talk, they’re able to play games on your iPhone or your tablet. In fact, for many mums, their smartphone is a better way to distract and keep your child entertained when they’re out and about than any other toy they might have in the baby bag. The only trouble is that once you’ve opened that Pandora’s Box of letting the kids play with your phone, there’s a danger of having endless demands for ‘another turn’ every time they catch sight of it!
But while hi-tech gizmos might keep the kids amused when you’re away from home, it’s so important to encourage them to do lots of creative play at home as it can really stimulate their imaginations and help them learn about all kinds of aspects of life.
It’s no surprise that the mainstay of a nursery or pre-school’s toy stocks are those ‘let’s pretend’ toys – props that allow children to act out different real life situations in their own imaginative way.
This great article about play kitchens on the GLTC blog explains a few of the ways that role-play toys help your child to learn about the world. The play kitchen is a classic example. Of course the kids get to pretend to be like mum or dad and cook up meals in their kitchen – and then feed you their weird and wonderful concoctions, too. But they also learn lots of other things. For example, you can use the brightly coloured fruit and veg to help a toddler learn to recognise and name different colours. You can teach them to count by counting the pretend plates and cutlery. And with older children, you can help them calculate – working out how long things would take to cook, for instance.
Role-play toys also help children develop their social skills. If they’re playing shop, they learn to be polite to their customers, to say please and thank you, just as you would in a real shop. They can do some problem-solving too. If their customer asks for something they don’t sell, then what do they do? Have they got an alternative item to offer them? And again, maths plays a big part of the game when you’re handing out change in a shop!
Great fun as a game like Bubblemania or Temple Run may be; it’s really only teaching your kids hand-eye coordination; while playing games using role play toys as their props, their play experience can be an imaginative experience too.
For generations, millions of households have had role play toys like play kitchens and shops, toy castles and dolls’ houses. Traditional though these toys may be, they probably will entertain and educate your child for many hours more than a computer game ever would!