Monday, 12 September 2011

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Learning Toys are Complements & Not Substitutes


Like most parents, one of the questions I ask myself is "should I rely on learning toys"? I have been pondering over this for quite a while, and I have now come to a standpoint that it all depends on whether it has become a complement or a substitute in my child's learning development life.

In general I am try not to over-rely on learning toys such as educational DVD, applications for iPad and iPhones, although my favourite is Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD, which in my opinion is an excellent production. I allow Joshua to watch it once in a while, but complement it with other fun alphabet learning activities such as Hitting Letter Balloons.

Learning toys such as are in my opinion complementary to and not substitute to Montessori activities, which emphasizes strongly on using hands-on and real-life objects, rather than software applications. "Hands-on learning is minds-on learning" according to a certification course that my friends attended on Children's Ministry. Active learning through hands-on playing is superior to passive learning in front of the computer, TV or iPad and iPhone. This is because the brain collects data through all the child's senses, and all the more at such an early age, when sensory learning is critical and vital - i.e. through eye, ear, taste, touch and trying out themselves - "on the job" learning.

Having said that, I think modern learning toys are important as they expose our children to IT, i.e. how to operate a computer, how to use an iPhone, etc.

However, in my opinion, many parents use them all too often as convenient substitutes to entertain their children, rather than actually spending time with the child, and letting the child learn to play on their own during Room Time.

For me, my objective is a 80/20 rule. 80% on hands-on Montessori activities, and 20% on DVDs, computer application, etc. learning. You may have your own ratio, but whatever you ratio prefer, you may want to make sure that learning toys is not reaching 100% of your child's learning and playing time.

So the next time I am thinking of turning on the iPhone, I need to think of whether it is still a complement or whether it has become a substititute to the other mediums of learning in Joshua's world of playing.

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