Friday, April 2, 2010
The 3 best toys for developing your homeschooler's imagination
Ever wonder why your child ignores a new toy and prefers to play with the box it was packaged in? Many modern toys don’t allow the child to use their imagination. To a child with a creative mind the box a toy arrives in can become a rocket ship, a racecar, a playhouse or even a cave for his dinosaur collection. Those pots and pans in the cupboard are far more fun than passively watching television. A dress up box is a place to find the proper uniform for a space traveling ruler of the universe.
With such a plethora of toys on the market these days it’s difficult to know which ones are best for developing your child’s imagination. Finding just the right toy for your child can prove to be an experimental and expensive endeavor but that’s the beauty of being homeschoolers. You’re free to experiment and spend as much or as little as you want on manipulatives (a fancy word for toys). As parents of two eager-to-explore homeschoolers we learned that less is more!
Our top choice for toys is LEGOS®. Both of our children started playing with DUPLOS® at a young age. They loved them and they could create other toys with them. These colorful well made plastic wonders were a staple in our homeschool. Once the children became old enough to graduate to the smaller LEGOS® we purchased many of the sets with various themes. The NASA® set tied in very well because grandfather had worked for the company before his retirement. This led to reading books on space, astronomy and engineering. Pirates were a big hit too which led to reading many books about pirating, ships and ocean travel. Of course, no trip to Florida was complete without a visit to Disney World’s LEGOLAND®. Eventually all this creativity led to the more technical versions of this toy and our young son was soon building robots that came whizzing out of his room at all hours of the day. I credit my now teenage son’s LEGO® experience to his becoming a member of an award winning US First robotics team.
2. Art supplies
You’re probably thinking these aren’t really toys. To a child they are. A child’s play is work and anything a child can play with or manipulate he’ll learn from. Keep a ready supply of materials on hand for your child and watch their imagination flourish. Paints, crayons, pencils, paint brushes, markers, paper, scissors, canvas, clay, sketch pads, sewing notions, fabric, crafts, hand-made dough, cast off clothing for dress up and alteration, pastels, glue, cardboard, egg cartons…the list is endless. Make your child an art apron and set aside a space in the home where children can freely make messes. Make the materials available and accessible at all hours because an artist never knows when inspiration will strike.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a toy either but nature is all around us. We are nature. Think about how creative nature is. Children have a fascination with nature and are naturally drawn to other parts of it. When I was a child my mom would send me and my six siblings out the front door after breakfast and tell us not to return until supper. She told us to go to the garden if we got hungry and go to the brook if we got dirty. We didn’t even need to go home for potty breaks because we had an outhouse in the back yard. The older children kept an eye on the younger ones and we only went back to the house for emergencies. Of course, that was mainly in the summertime and on our farm.
As homeschooling parents it is our job to provide a nurturing and safe learning environment in which our children are free to learn. Send them out the door. Let them play with sticks and stones. Let them wade in frog ponds, raise animals, build forts, ride bikes, ski, sled, dig in the dirt, garden, jump in puddles after a rain storm and count the stars in the night sky. Let them explore their world. Even city dwellers can raise a kitten, a puppy, a hamster, care for a fish or put up a bird feeder. They can start a neighborhood garden, count the stars in the night sky from a rooftop or go to a park or wilderness camp. Without a house or yard full of plastic toys children will need to use their imagination in order to create their own playthings.