What Makes a Toy "Educational"?

What Makes a Toy "Educational"?     Almost everyone selling toys these days tries to tell us that their toys are educational.   Children, playing and experimenting freely, inventing their own rules and structure as they go along or using no rules at all, will acquire and maintain new motor, cognitive, and creative skills when they engage in genuine play with almost any toy offered on Turnertoys.com. 

    An explicitly didactic toy is boring.  A toy with a predetermined set of goals, with a "right answer", is not a toy at all.  Play with such a "toy" is not play, but work. Children cannot learn much from a toy they are not motivated to play with.  On the other hand, one of the most important things a child ever learns, either through structured, didactic learning experiences or by doing real-world tasks, is that the successful attainment of a predetermined goal is supremely satisfying, and that part of the satisfaction comes from the knowledge that he or she may fail to attain the goal in any particular instance. There are play products for children that do a very good job of guiding this process.  In fact, Turnertoys aims to sell only that kind of toy, to the extent possible.

       An automated toy holds attention for a while, but pretty soon, after it has done its thing, a child gets bored with it and moves on.  A toy really teaches if it requires thought and effort from a child, and rewards new efforts with new kinds of results. There is a place for real, structured learning even in the life of an infant.  But such behavior is never play and shouldn't be confused with play.

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