Heirloom Wooden Toys :: Manipulative Toys

Manipulative Toys

Manipulative Toys

How to choose the right . . .

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Manipulative Toy

What is a manipulative toy?  Manipulative toys help children to improve their motor skills.  Kids use these kinds of toys to learn about their relationships with the physical world and how they can interact with it.  And the best manipulative toys are open-ended, and allow for the kind of imaginative, free-form play that builds memory and relationships and encourages kids to think outside the box.

What are some exaples of manipulative toys?  There are TONS of different manipulative toys that you can choose for a child.  Probably the best known and most used are wooden blocks. Children love to build, stack and knock them down, and they're completely kid-powered.  Another style of toy that is exceptionally popular with kids can be found in just about every preschool and doctor's office: the bead maze.  Children tend to play with these with an amazing intensity for a surprisingly long time, and they don't require the kindof clean-up that blocks often do.  Other manipulatives include lacing toys, stacking toys, sorting toys, and pounding toys.   For slightly older children, think about toys that promote imaginative play, like a play kitchen, dress up costumes, or dollhouses.  Basically, a manipulative toy is any toy that gets little fingers and brains actively working together.

There are so many toys - how do I choose? Choosing the right toy isn't always easy.  To choose, think about what skills are coming naturally to the child, and which aren't; consider how old the child is, and what toys will last the longest and allow for the widest range of play.  The first toys that are appropriate for babies are usually rattles and graspers. When a child learns to walk, they will become interested in pull along or push along toys.  About this same time, the child may become interested in lacing, stacking, sorting, and pounding toys. And an old classic, wooden unit blocks, tend to appeal to children ages 18 months right on up to 10 years old.  Table top size blocks are often better for kids ages 4 and up, as they're a little trickier to handle.  As children grow older, their interests tend to get more complex, and tend more toward fine motor skills or games which require more imagination; at ages 3-4 and up, you may consider adding kitchen sets, art easels, weaving looms, tool benches, and more advanced toys to a child's environment for them to explore.

Another important consideration to take into account is the amount of space you would like to devote to any given toy.  Manipulative toys like the bead mazes come in many different shapes, sizes and varieties.  To quickly assess which size would be most appropriate, ask yourself these questions.  Is this one of many toys?  Is it to be a focal point of the room?  Do you want one that is fixed to a wall? Small bead mazes have the advantage of being portable.  Kids love them.  They can go on the floor, in the car, on a table, or over to a friend's house.Do you have more space?  Consider a bead maze table or a play cube.  Bead maze tables take up a little more room, and aren't portable, however, kids find them easy to focus on.  Children will tend to gravitate to the bead maze table.  Play cubes take the concept of the bead maze table one step further.  They tend to have activities on the top and all four sides.  These are reasonably large items to put in a room, but they pack a LOAD of playing potential!  Another way to keep a manipulative in a child's focus is to mount it on the wall.  Wall mounted manipulative toys have the advantage of not taking up a large amount of room, and they never need to be cleaned up!

Manipulative toys are some of our favorites because they allow for such open-ended play - with a well-crafted manipulative toy, kids can start by exploring physical objects and discovering hand-eye coordination in their first years, moving up to cooperation, communication, and imagination as the little one learns and grows!

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