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With all the learning toys available for children today it can be an overwhelming task to determine which one to actually get when you are ready to buy something. Countless hours can be spent surfing the Internet and reading umpteen reviews to find the best learning toys for our children.
We see toys that teach counting, the alphabet, letter sounds, sorting, identifying, measurement, and so much more. There are those with few pieces, lots of pieces, big, little, in-between, those that need batteries, those that don’t need batteries, and the list goes on.
And then there are “learning” toys, you know the ones, which seem designed to drive the parents out of their ever-loving minds from all the noise they make. We’ll just stay away from those toys because when mommy starts talking in her sleep and saying “driving is fun” that is not a good thing. 🙂
So how do you decide which learning toy will be the best for your child? After years of trying out different learning toys with my own children, I have found there are 10 factors worth considering in order to help me determine if I should purchase the item or not.
Since we are busy moms and need to keep things simple and easy, you can use this list and corresponding questions as a quick guide to decide if the toy under consideration would be the best choice for your child.
Here are the 10 key factors to consider when you are looking for the best learning toy for your child:
- Learning value – What will this toy teach your child? Will it teach them something new or complement what you are already teaching them?
- Usability – Is it convenient and practical to use? Toys that suck up batteries faster than a kid with a Slurpee are not very convenient or practical. We own a particular learning toy that has cost us a lot of money in batteries. I finally wised-up and bought rechargeable batteries but I still don’t find it very convenient to have to recharge batteries as often as this toy requires.
- Versatility – Can this toy be used for multiple types of learning? For example, can the pieces be used to teach colors, patterning and to practice counting? The more versatile it is, typically the more use it will receive.
- Quality – Is this a relatively high quality item? Is it sturdy? Will it hold up for the length of time you plan to own it? Is it made out of high quality materials?
- Length of use – Is this something that your child will likely want to play with and use for years to come? Can this be passed on from an older child to a younger child? Is this something you can keep long-term so that your children can pass it on to their children?
- Affordability – Is this toy within your budget and do you think it is worth what you are going to pay for it? Sometimes you get what you pay for but other times it is just plain expensive. If it’s something you are really interested in but it’s pricey, check to see if you can find a used one on eBay or Craigslist for a lower cost.
- Safety – This one is a no-brainer. It has to be made out of safe materials and safe to use.
- Fun – Do you believe your child (not somebody else’s child) will think this is something fun to explore and play with? Not all children are created the same so make sure you take into consideration your own child’s interests and behavior. That said, once in a while we will truly believe our child will enjoy a particular toy and it turns out they aren’t interested. I’ve had a few flops of my own and one in particular stands out. A couple of years ago I bought Snootz some totally amazing Melissa and Doug puppets for Christmas thinking he would love them. I couldn’t have been more wrong because he wanted absolutely nothing to do with them and I ended up selling them on eBay. This isn’t a perfect science so do the best you can with this one.
- Parental assistance – You’ll want to consider how much parental assistance will be required when your child uses the toy. If your child will need a lot of assistance with the particular toy you are considering and you won’t be available to do that, then it’s probably not the best choice. Your child might get frustrated and not play with the toy if they are unable to work it properly without your help.
- Resale value – If you decide not to keep the toy long-term, can you resell it when your children are done with it in order to recoup some of the cost? For me personally, this isn’t a deal breaker but since I sell some of the toys we no longer use, I do take this into consideration.
After you’ve gone through the process of determining whether or not the toy under consideration is “worthy” you can lastly determine: Can I find this toy preowned?
Oftentimes, you can find a learning toy in good condition for the fraction of the cost of purchasing it new. So, if you find something that meets all the other qualifications and you are ready to purchase, you might want to check on eBay, Craigslist or your local thrift store to see if you can find it preowned. Sometimes it’s too much of a hassle but if it’s an easy transaction then go for it! I know I love saving money and I’m guessing you do too!
However, even if you find the toy for only a dollar or two at our local thrift store or rummage sale, you’ll probably still want it to pass the 10 factor test since it will be taking up valuable space in your home.
Next, I’ll share our 10 favorite learning toys with you.