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Enabling early learning through toys

Enabling early learning through toys

I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.

-Thomas A Edison

There is an inventor in each of us that finds new ways to do the same things in an effort to make life interesting and easier. Majority of these come with trial and error.Very few inventions are made by chance. So, what does it take to become an inventor?

IGNITING FUTURE INVENTORS

A few essential traits are the ability to stay focused, to think laterally, fearlessness to explore and an interest in new things happening around. All these put together enhance the ability to solve problems or create new solutions, which is critical for the world to progress.

The ideal tools available to do this of course are toys.Play is intrinsically motivated, so children take to interesting toys automatically without coercion. Toys are very forgiving teachers. They are extremely patient, and do not retaliate no matter how many times a little child makes a mistake. As children play more with toys they start relating to other happenings and hence start thinking laterally. Most importantly, playing with toys involves use of hands and in turn motor skills, which is a catalyst for brain development.

Not every toy however promotes experimentation and innovation. How must a parent choose the right toy? What must a good toy behave primarily to foster a spirit of science and reasoning?
Toys must have designs that draw a child to experiment, and make mistakes, leading the child to learn by discovery rather than by instruction. When learning is discovered instead of taught, it makes the knowledge a part of oneself. This is referred to as experiential learning.

If a child has played with a toy and discovered that 'diameter is the longest line inside a circle“, this knowledge become involuntary over a period of time if the child has used hands muscles to discover this. The memories of this learning are very strong making it almost involuntary.Compare this to the knowledge of a child who has been taught the same by rote. This learning is less powerful since it is not routed experientially, and also likely to be forgotten faster for the same reason.

RIGHT DESIGN

When toys are designed with singular learning outcomes, they help children stay focused on the task at hand, without getting distracted with unnecessary inputs from the toy. If a toy demonstrates alphabet, it must stick to that. If it gets complicated by trying to mix colours with alphabet, the child will drift from colour to letters and back, not absorbing either well in the process.Multitasking or multipurpose toys at an early age make children lose the ability to focus on one objective.

When toys have depth and challenge, children tend to come back to them time and again, in the process becoming more practiced. For a budding inventor, enthusiastically attacking a problem, making mistakes, coming back to it repeatedly and solving it finally, is the highest incentive. This clearly fosters the desire to tackle challenges, knowing that they will solve it finally.

So, let us give our little ones the opportunities to invent, discover and create new solutions for a better tomorrow; for, as Einstein says, `The highest form of research is essentially play.' (The author is a toys consultant)

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