GOOD TOY GUIDE: Pre-school play

Dr Amanda Gummer looks at pre-school play and whether it’s a useful tool to help children settle into school.
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Preparing a child for a smooth transition into school is an important goal for parents. However, with so many products on the market, how are parents supposed to know which ones are most valuable for a child’s pre-school development?

Or should we stop looking at play as a way to teach or prepare children and just look at how much they actually enjoy it? 

Looking at what skills teachers value in children entering school, it is not the reading and writing that are important, but social abilities and the confidence to ‘have a go’. Teachers are there to teach the literacy and numeracy skills, but they are able to devote a lot more time to this if they don’t have to do up 30 buttons or zips before taking the children outside. Equally, if they are constantly stopping individuals from fighting, they struggle to give the whole class the attention they need.

Parents can relax a little about all the ‘educational’ toys available and let their child have fun playing with friends, developing communication skills, learning to share and sort out their own disputes. This will ease the path into school much more than priming the child with advanced reading or maths abilities. 

Once at school, some children do not seem to take easily to academic subjects such as reading, writing and numeracy, despite seeming ‘ready’. Again, pre-school play can help prevent such a situation from arising. 

Social development is incredibly important for young children’s learning, and helping them develop communication skills will help them to articulate what they are finding difficult. Educational activities are useful in preparing the child for school, but a reluctance to learn numbers and letters at home will not always translate into an inability to learn them at school. 

Encouraging a child to role play ‘school’ games, by letting them be the teacher with the adults playing the children, is a way to enable a child to explore their feelings about school and allow the parents to identify and address any worries the child may have before starting. 

So the answer is a bit of both. Children learn more when they are engaged and pre-school toys can help develop confidence with challenges they will face at school. 

However, a lot of what children gain from simply playing and having fun actually benefits them when they do start school, so it is not always necessary to buy a toy for more than the fact that a child enjoys playing with it. 

Website reviews from goodtoyguide.com

Symphony in B

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A toy orchestra with different instruments that can be combined in the pit and heard together. 

Fun Rating: 4/5
Educational Rating: 4/5

- Develops rhythm and listening skills

- Strengthens hand and finger muscles

- Promotes self-expression through music

- Improves understanding of different musical instruments

Miniland Buttons for Lacing

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Colourful buttons and threads with braille and activity cards.

Fun Rating: 4/5
Educational Rating: 4/5

- Helps with development of motor skills

- Increases understanding of patterns and sequences

- Reinforces colour recognition

- Encourages numeracy skills such as counting and simple addition

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