Three Fun Ways Parents Can Combine Playtime and Education

Hints and Tips / September 26, 2012

“Do not, my friend, keep children to their studies by compulsion, but by play.” Plato

Educational games and other teaching resources are great ways for parents to integrate learning into their children’s lives. When children are at play, they engage in a type of cognitive development that promotes learning through creative and analytical play. The sheer joy of playtime is healthy in itself as it allows children to develop self-confidence and to release stress. Finally, playtime helps children develop social skills through cooperation, sharing and conflict resolution. The benefits of playtime only increase when the games are educational in nature.

1. Reading Board Games

Like reading, board games take children on journeys. There are many board games on the market that teach children phonics and reading comprehension. For young children, an alphabet game is a great option. For older children, there are board games that promote listening and critical thinking as well as reading comprehension. While snakes and ladders is a fun game of chance, these educational board games will encourage children of all ages to grow as readers. This is a great option for a child who prefers interactive playtime opposed to the quiet, concentrated task of story time. Unlike microscopes and toy cash registers, reading board games will need to be updated to match a child’s reading level. However, many educational board games can be purchased in groups and are largely inexpensive.

2. A Microscope

It’s not a toy; it’s something better. Microscopes are instruments of discovery that can spark a child’s curiosity of and interaction with the natural world. Children as young as four have been reported to use microscopes successfully. Using a microscope can help children become acquainted with complicated scientific concepts at an early age, and the process of handling slides and focusing a lens can help improve motor skills and teach children patience. Most microscopes come with prepared slides so children and parents can immediately begin viewing!

3. A Toy Cash Register

A toy cash register allows children to participate in creative imaginary play while also exposing them to basic math skills such as counting, adding and subtracting. Many toy cash registers have surprisingly real-life features such as scanning barcodes and credit cards, but in their simplest forms, toy cash registers are calculators.

Currency is the most natural tool for teaching children basic math skills because it reflects real-world behavior and value. Children watch adults use math to calculate budgets and conduct transactions and are already primed to mimic the behavior. Toy cash registers are also much more interactive than simply solving equations, which can make them a staple in playtime, both guided by adults and with other children.

Toy cash registers teach children to understand numbers as quantifying measurements of real objects, specifically money. Understanding the value of money can be more than a maths lesson. Even at an early age, children can begin absorbing information regarding financial literacy and the concept of money, making cash registers a valuable social training tool as well.

Most parents who wish to use cash registers to teach children financial literacy will hide the fake credit cards, at least until interest rates can be explained. Although it may not be realistic to expect your child to still be using a toy cash register in his teens, the cash register is a toy with great longevity and the currency can be used to introduce the basic concepts of multiplication and division. Children with an interest in maths have been known to play with toy cash registers from 4-9 years of age.

Guest post by Patricia Garza; a mother and educator who is both an adamant proponent of accredited online learning and a staunch opponent of diploma mills. She uses the oedb accreditation guide as her main resource. Patricia welcomes your comments below!

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