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How to Pick Toys for Your Kids That are Both Fun and Educational

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Thu Oct 3, 2013.

(StatePoint) From fostering a love of science to building vocabulary, the toys your children play with can have a large impact on their interests and brain development.  So when it comes to playtime, parents are becoming more selective.

With this in mind, smart toymakers are aiming to design toys that are not only fun but also foster learning.

For example, VTech, a world leader in age-appropriate and developmental stage-based electronic learning products for children, has assembled a team of child development experts to provide feedback on their toys before they hit the store shelves.

The members of VTech’s Panel of Experts are offering some helpful hints to parents looking to get “smart” about toys for their kids:

• Get involved: “Toys can create a bonding experience between parent and child. Look for toys that emphasize this connection,” says Dr. Helen Boehm, psychologist, author and parenting resource expert. “For example, a tablet that lets your kids chat safely with you while you’re on-the-go is a great way to bond with them while they are having fun.”

• Age-appropriate: “Children's brains develop at a remarkable pace, and their toys should keep up with their development,” says Dr. Lise Eliot, an early childhood mental development expert. “Toys that are too young or too old get boring or frustrating. Make sure you’re keeping your kids challenged with educational toys that are just right for their age.”

Consider child-sized, age-appropriate tablets that have the look and feel of adult mobile devices, but are packed with educational, stage-based learning content.

• Add it up: “Mathematical foundations provide the building blocks for future success, both in school and for the rest of a child’s life,” says Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell, mathematics educator. “Support and encourage your children as they develop these important concepts and related skills at a young age, with toys that emphasize numbers, counting and beginning concepts with whole number operations.”

• Science and math: “You have probably heard a lot about the growing importance of integrating the learning of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics in K-12 schools,” says Dr. Carla C. Johnson, science and STEM expert. “It is critical to foster a love and skills in STEM for boys and girls alike with educational toys that develop self-confidence in the use and application of technology.”

• Choose wisely: “Don’t get carried away with the bells and whistles. You and your kids will quickly look past those.  Instead look for toys that actively engage your kids through technology, by deeply integrating games and learning,” says Dr. Eric Klopfer, platform learning expert.

• Build vocabulary: “Children absorb new information like sponges. Take advantage of their blossoming interests with interactive toys that highlight letters of the alphabet, the sounds letters make and vocabulary,” says Dr. Deborah Sharp Libby, early childhood language and reading expert. “Above all, don't forget the importance of reading to and with your children often!”

More tips and resources for parents can be found at www.VTechKids.com/parenting.

By blurring the lines of play and education, you can develop an early love of learning, and set up your children for success.

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