Smart Cookies: Are educational toys really all that great?

Parents will argue, along with educators alike, that the value of educational toys and those that promote learning is invaluable.

In a world that is overrun by brands, action figures, dolls and other items that aren’t deemed as educational, the idea of buying your son or daughter a toy that is rooted brain power seems like the smart move.

But the question that hangs over this argument is an easy one: Are educational toys really that great?

And by “great,” you would suggest that as much as educational toys have a place in the cedar chest toy box at the foot of the bed, you still have a hard time not only marketing these items but also getting kids to buy into them in the first place.

A tablet, for example, is all about loading up on games that look the part of fun and engaging but in some, if not most, cases, kids are underwhelmed by the meticulousness and structure of the games themselves.

What kids want from toys, you can argue, is the ability to not only have the like of “Star Wars,” “WWE” or “Barbie” at their fingertips, but also that freedom of imagination that comes with playing with toys you’d pinpoint as traditional.

There’s something to be said by kids playing with action figures or recreating a scene from a movie, adding their own dialogue or just playing make believe as a means for cultivating a world of “structure” that allows them to use their brain power to create scenarios they can act out with their toys.

At least that’s how I remember playing with toys, none of which were handheld computers or iPads in the mid 1980s.

This isn’t to suggest that the likes of LeapFrog and others of that ilk don’t have a place on the shelves. Engaging, smart toys certainly aren’t going away any time soon, nor should they. Developing cognitive skills at an early age and as your child gets older is key.

The only suggestion being put forth here is that playing with G.I. Joe or Legos can equally benefit a child learning but in a completely imaginative way. They aren’t figuring out math problems or learning foreign languages subtly on a high end, handheld game but instead are doing something of equal greatness: developing an imagination or, in the case of Legos for example, learning the old fashioned way by simply doing and figuring it out as you go along.

No codes written. Nothing fancy about it.

Just good, old fashioned playing. Seems tailor made for toy buying, even if those toys being referenced aren’t considered that educational at first glance.


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