Playing to learn


EAST AURORA, New York, Sept. 29 /HISPANIC PR WIRE-CONTEXTO LATINO/ — School bells are ringing, yellow buses are rolling by … and if you have preschoolers at home, they may be watching out the window with envy. There’s something about “back to school” time that makes even little ones want to be part of the learning experience.

“Children start learning right from birth, and they’re always getting ready for the next step,” says Kathleen Alfano, Ph.D., Senior Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price. “Every milestone your child accomplishes prepares them for another… so by the time it’s their turn for school, they’re ready!”

Even as your infant explores his own tiny fingers and toes, he’s learning — discovering the world by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and playing. “You can enhance many different aspects of your child’s development by providing a variety of toys,” suggests Dr. Alfano.

Toys as tools

Toys that promote learning — like the Laugh & Learn(TM) Smart Bounce & Spin Pony(TM) — get little ones engaged and active while they discover letters, numbers, words and other academic basics. As babies grow, so do opportunities to play and learn. Soon they’re ready to move on to more advanced concepts like math, science, and critical thinking. Researchers in the Fisher-Price Play Lab note that preschoolers are especially fascinated by the Computer Cool School(TM), with its school-like settings and variety of topics that invite interactive play.

But as Dr. Alfano advises, “Toys don’t have to be identified as ‘learning toys’ to help with school preparedness.” In a well-rounded toy chest you’ll find a balance of toys that encourage different and necessary skills rather than an abundance of one favorite like trucks or dolls. Alfano suggests looking for:

— Toys that encourage sharing and teamwork, helping kids practice social skills such as cooperating with others and learning to negotiate. Little People(R) playsets — like the Learn About Town(TM) or Dance ‘n Twirl Palace(TM) — welcome friends to play together.

— Toys that stimulate imagination and creativity, providing a rich resource for language development, social competence, and even problem-solving abilities. Themed toys such as Planet Heroes(R) sets get kids discovering the universe, learning cool science facts while getting immersed in play that’s meaningful to them.

— Toys that foster solo play and in-depth focus, helping children learn about themselves while promoting concentration, independent thinking and self-esteem. Puzzles, building sets and books are all great examples.

One more thing to remember when adding to your child’s toybox: make sure the toys match your child’s age and stage. “Playtime helps children learn naturally,” reminds Dr. Alfano. “And toys that are appropriate for them and match their budding interests are more likely to help them develop the skills they need to succeed in school.”

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Playing to learn