Consider gifts that keep on giving

This holiday season, keep in mind that what your children play with can have a large impact on their interests and brain development. So when it comes to a walk down the toy aisle, parents are becoming more discerning, leading smart toy makers to design toys with a learning component that‘s equally as important as the fun.

VTech, a developer of age-appropriate electronic learning products for children, works with a team of child development experts to assess toys and provide feedback. The members of its expert panel are offering helpful holiday shopping hints for parents looking to foster their child’s love of learning:

Add it up

“Mathematical foundations provide the building blocks for future mathematical success, both in school and beyond,” says Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell, mathematics educator.

“Toys that emphasize numbers, counting and beginning concepts with whole number operations will develop, support and encourage these crucial concepts and skills.”

The Count & Chomp Dino, for example, introduces children to numbers, colors, shapes and foods.

Age-appropriate

“Children’s brains are developing at a remarkable speed,” says Dr. Lise Eliot, an early childhood development expert. “Their toys should keep up with that growth.”

Keep kids challenged with educational toys that are age-appropriate, so they are never bored or frustrated. Consider child-sized, kid-friendly tablets, such as the InnoTab MAX, that are packed with educational learning content.

Full STEAM ahead

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) have gained visibility in schools, along with the addition of arts to form STEAM. However, says Dr. Carla C. Johnson, science and STEM expert, “It is still crucial to cultivate skills in these subjects and implement them in everyday learning. Educational toys can help kids develop

self-confidence in the use and application of these important disciplines.”

Build vocabulary

“Children absorb new information like sponges. Take advantage of their blossoming interests with interactive toys that highlight letters of the alphabet, the sounds letters make and vocabulary,” says Dr. Deborah Sharp Libby, early childhood language and reading expert. “Above all, don’t forget the importance of reading to and with your children often.”

Choose wisely

“Don’t get carried away with the bells and whistles. You and your kids will quickly look past those. Instead, look for toys that actively engage your kids through technology, by deeply integrating games and learning,” says Dr. Eric Klopfer, platform learning expert.

Each child grows at his or her own pace, and there are few hard and fast deadlines when it comes to a child’s milestones. For a guideline sorted by age group and area of development, visit www.vtechkids.com/milestones.

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