Shari Bricks Zeiler, from neighbourhood community toy store TOYTOWN at Avenue & Lawrence in Toronto, is one of the many local business owners trying to adapt to retail during the pandemic. TOYTOWN is offering same-day delivery and curbside pickup if you order with them by phone at (416) 783-8073, email, or via their social media. That they’re trying to continue serving the community is a great thing, as more than ever lately, with schools closed and most people at home, families are looking for toys that alleviate boredom. If they have an educational component, then so much the better!
Shari’s philosophy is that educational toys should think outside of the box and show how kids can learn. Kids don’t often realize they are learning practical skills they can use in real world through play. She has suggested many toys and games that foster early learning, creativity and imagination, and here’s several kinds of toys that are both fun and helpful for childhood development and education.
Bubbles and Bubble Kits
For ages: 1+
Bubbles are a great low-cost activity for all ages (even for babies, as it encourages eye tracking). Everyone loves bubbles and bubble guns. It gets kids active and outside, running to pop them. There are science kits regarding what you can do with bubbles too.
You can make your own bubble solution; you don’t have to buy it, although some of the store-offered bubble solutions and wands are better for STEM activities involving making giant bubbles the size of humans!
Play-Doh and Tray, Peg, and Jigsaw Puzzles
For ages: 2+
Play-Doh isn’t just fun; it’s great for Occupational Therapy, awesome for creativity, and good for training fine-motor control, spatial reasoning, and manipulation. Rolling out the doh, using cookie cutters, and colour blending develops hand-eye coordination and strengthens fingers and builds dexterity for pre-writing… and when done outside, the mess is easy to clean up!
Peg and jigsaw puzzles are also good for fine motor and hand eye coordination. Trial and error is an important life skill, but also kids will do same puzzle 15 times because they like the feeling of accomplishment! With a cookie sheet or even a breakfast in bed tray, setting up an outdoor puzzle table to enjoy in the sunshine is simple.
For ages: 2 - 6
Pretend play (aided with props like Melissa & Doug Grocery Basket, play food sets, kitchen sets, tool belt kits, dolls, action figures and the like) is so good for vocabulary building, communication, creativity, and imagination. Using props encourages the development of fine motor and gross motor control. Take them outside too for some backyard playtime projects!
For ages: 3+
Everyone is using it to make signs for people walking by and cheerful artwork. It’s also great for hopscotch! The possibilities are endless, especially when it comes in so many colours.
Racket Sports, Ball Games, and Water Balloons
For ages: 4+
Jumbo tennis rackets, golf sets, t-ball sets, water balloons, and even target throwing sets like bean bag tossing and basketball make for great solo or family backyard play and physical activity. Everyone also must learn to follow rules and exercise care when playing with others!
For ages: 4-7
Practiced indoors or outdoors, the art of illusion is all about problem solving skills and building social and communications skills.
For ages: 6-12
Right now, we’re all getting a little less exercise than normal, so it’s important to make sure we’re getting as much physical activity in a small area as we can manage. One of Shari’s biggest sellers right now is the Pogo Hop, which needs no more space to enjoy than the back porch or sidewalk. Many parents remember them fondly from their childhood… after all, they’re great fun!
And remember, parents, you can enjoy a little of this outdoor playtime with the children as well! With all this enforced idleness, be sure to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air (and teaching your child that when it comes to Hopscotch, you still got it).
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