Carolyn Jaynes is a Learning Designer for LeapFrog Enterprises, specializing in language and literacy development. She earned her doctorate in educational psychology at Michigan State University where she was a researcher and professional development consultant for the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA).
The great thing about Kindergartners is that they can find a way to have fun and learn from just about any toy. At the same time, children this age are growing in ways that can be reinforced with certain kinds of play. As a parent, you can use the acronym L.E.A.P.S. to remember how educational toys can encourage your child’s development in five important areas:
Kindergartners are expanding their vocabularies every day and building their abilities to use and understand language. Anything that encourages your child to role-play or have fun with words can foster language development. This includes toys such as puppets, tea party sets, and pretend microphones, but it also includes items you may have around the house like dress-up clothes, voice recorders, and old phones or calculators—I remember spending hours playing merchant with my dad’s old adding machine and discarded memo pads. And don’t forget the books! No toy box is complete without a selection of books that spark the imagination and build word knowledge along the way.
Kindergartners love to explore. As they head outside, children can learn to make observations, gather information, and recognize patterns in what they see. Providing children with child-friendly magnifying glasses, binoculars, or cameras can encourage them to make close observations, document their findings, and collect information that will help them understand the world around them.
Kindergartners are on the move. In fact, at this age, children can enjoy active play for longer periods of time. Of course, there are plenty of games and activities that get kids skipping and jumping without toys, but adding balls, jump ropes, and riding toys can add to the fun. And don’t forget old favorites like Twister and Hula Hoops.
Kindergartners are developing improved hand-eye coordination, learning about spatial relationships, and building patience. Toys that include puzzles or mazes prompt children to learn through trial and error. Interlocking manipulative toys and building sets encourage children to sort objects and consider multiple approaches to construction.
Finally, Kindergartners are discovering new forms of self-expression. As children learn to recognize changes in musical pitch and tempo, toys with keyboards and drums can foster creativity and build on their improving abilities to move smoothly and rhythmically to music. Providing an easel—or just plenty of paper and markers—encourages children this age to express themselves with art that is becoming increasingly creative and realistic.
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