by Stephanie Lopes
Learning can be fun! In fact, playing is one of the most important contributors to a child’s development. Children’s minds are inspired and make connections whether they are pretending to be chefs in a mini kitchen, exploring sounds and lights on a toddler board, or connecting electrical wires in a STEM kit.
We recently visited Thinker Toys and Thinker Things in the Kahala Mall and were wowed by their selection of toys to promote cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development for children of all ages. Thinker Toys, which also has a location at Ka Makana Ali‘i in Kapolei, has a full range of educational games, toys, and books to boost creativity and learning abilities in children ages 0 to 6 years old. The sister store, Thinker Things, which also has a location at Pearlridge Mall in Aiea, offers a variety of games, puzzles, kits, and gifts that stimulate thinking for the whole family – ages 8 to 88.
Toys for Development
“Toys are very important to children’s development, and this is accomplished through play,” says Bradley Ishii, owner of Thinker Toys and Thinker Things. “Through play, a young child’s development of social and emotional behaviors begins to form. For example, a child playing with a doll builds empathy and learns how to care for others.”
There are also a variety of toys for development at all ages. “As newborns, there are toys that helps the development of fine motor skills, color, memory,” Bradley continues. “Examples include rattles, orbital toys, and flash cards. As children get older, games, building blocks, and mind-bending puzzles are a great way to develop creative thinking. Jigsaw puzzles are great for all ages from 3-103, helping to develop brain visual spatial reasoning and keeping older adults focused by maintaining brain cell connectivity.”
Picking the Right Toy
While toys offer a range of benefits, how do you know which one is right for your child?
“Age appropriate is very important,” says Bradley. “If you are purchasing a toy for baby, make sure the toy doesn’t have any small parts where a child may choke on the toy or a broken off piece. All toys are labeled for each age group. Make sure you purchase the right toy for the right age.”
Thinker Toys and Thinker Things has a variety of toys to support the FUNdamentals of Play: independent play, cooperative play, motor skills, visual learning, creative play, language development, logical thought, and learning through music. Here are some of Hawaii parents’ top toy picks in each of those categories.
When children play by themselves, they learn self-confidence and independent problem-solving skills. Independent play toys might include role playing and creative story development.
A Sushi Play Set can spark children’s imagination as they serve up sashimi and rolls in their own pretend Japanese restaurant.
When children play together, they learn to share along with other important social skills, including communication and collaboration. “A good cooperative play toy encourages children to interact in a fun environment enjoyed by all,” says Bradley. “Cooperative play toys can teach kids to express their feelings in a positive manner.”
Walkie Talkies take at least two to make them work. Children can also practice language and creative skills while having fun on these safe little machines.
Toys can help children develop physically, including hand-to-eye coordination and muscle development. Toys for younger children that help with motor skills include toys that have textures, differing weights, shapes, and moving parts. Older children can development fine motor skills with toys that make them manipulate small parts, such as used for building Legos or cooking a decorative cake.
A Wooden Yo-Yo is a great toy for school-aged children to develop fine motor skills. While it can be tricky at the start, mastering the rhythm and fine touch of a yo-yo can be satisfying as skills develop.
Bradley adds, “Outdoor play is very important in a child’s development. Getting them off the computer or video games and having them playing outdoor games is a must. Games that include a ball, such as a baseball, basketball, or football, improve their muscle development and hand-eye coordination. In addition, outdoor play improves problem solving skills and also boosts self-esteem and teamwork.”
As toddlers develop their vision, they learn colors and visual associations, such as a drawing of a kitten represents a kitty but is not real. Visual toys promote shape recognition and also are the building blocks of reading.
Baby Sensory Balls by Edushape promote sensory play. They are brightly colored with a variety of textures and shapes and not only can be great for teething but also invite grasping, rolling, and crawling.
Puppets, dolls, and animals coming to life through a child’s imagination helps to cultivate creativity, which in turn helps to develop cognitive, social, physical, and emotional skills. From costumes to blanket forts, a range of toys and household objects can spur a child’s creativity.
Rainbocorns by Zuru are dolls hidden inside eggs. Open one – and surprise! – there is a new friend to play with. Their bright colors and creative packaging make them a favorite for young children.
Toys can aid in promoting group conversation and the development of complex language skills. Family board games, books, and puppets for acting are all examples of toys that can develop language skills.
Learn and Wonder Tablet – Dual Languages is for children ages 18 months and older. The tablet introduces children to letters, words, animals and more – in both English and Spanish – encouraging language development skills as well as fine motor skills and creative play.
“Logical thought is the process in which we use reasoning consistently to come to a conclusion,” explains Bradley. Fill and spill, sorting, sequencing, puzzle, construction, and brain teaser toys all encourage logical thinking.
VEX Robotics SwitchGrib Ball Shooter by Hexbug allows older elementary children to assemble a unique robot that can shoot a ball over 20 feet. Children apply engineering skills that might spark interests for future aspirations.
Learning through Music
Music is great for child development, supporting physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development. Toy instruments, like shakers, drums, cymbals, and other percussion toys help children develop rhythm while pianos, guitars, xylophones, and others help to teach melody.
Goodnight Hawaiian Moon is a book with a CD that has award-winning illustrations, singing, and guitar playing. Children can read along with parents and then hear Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom’s rendition of Brahms’ Lullaby in both English and Hawaiian.
Toys for Development – and Fun!
Learning can be fun through a variety of toys that promote different aspects of development. Stop by Thinker Toys or Thinker Things in the Kahala Mall, Pearlridge, or Ka Makana Ali‘i to check out the recommended toys as well as many other toys for all ages and development levels.