Toys and Games- How Children Learn

phonemic awareness girlLearning disabilities, as most of us know have an effect on a child’s brain in the way they receive, process, store, respond to and communicate information, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.(This means children with learning disabilities can have a hard time in areas such as coordination, motor skills, memory, information processing, speech and language development, reading and writing and math skills. While some learning disabilities may not be identified until middle grades, young children often exhibit early warning signs. If learning disabilities are addressed in the early stages, lifelong disabilities can become much more manageable. It is well documented that children learn best through play, and because of the holiday season, toys have been in my mind lately. I believe educational toys can provide opportunities for children to develop the tools they need to become successful learners despite their disabilities.

Every child is unique and it would be unfair to group a child into a category based on their specific L.D. Alone, however certain L.D categories share characteristics that can be worked on use of educational toys and play.

Dyslexia and Dysgraphia for instance affect reading, writing, spelling and composition. Items like Foam letters that a child can stick to the wall while taking a bath or magnetic ones for the fridge are perfect for early learners. Children ages 3 to 5 will learn letter recognition, spelling. also letter tracing stencils help children learn fine motor skills associated with letters and writing as well and can also be a great learning tool. Older children may benefit from family games such as ne of my childhood favorites: Scrabble Jr. Or a simple game of hangman to promote memory and letter sounds to try and figure out the missing letters. Obviously the game of toy you choose must reflect the child’s capabilities, it is essential they are optimally challenged but do not become too frustrated. this is after all supposed to be an enjoyable experience, one that will hold their attention and be rewarding in itself for it to be successful. It is important that a patient adult guides the child throughout these games and offers support and reassurance to minimize frustration.

Dyscalculia on the other hand affects grasping mathematical concepts like computation, time and money. Plastic or real money is a great tool to use for games like ” playing store” where the child wishes to buy or sell an item and the adult requires the exact change. (a fun way to make this interesting is to use real coins and allow the child to keep the profits if he or she is correct) using different denominations is also a great variation. Simple dice games (including many common board games) can be used to teach basic addition and introduce learners to odds, probability, logic and critical thinking.

People with Dyspraxia have difficulty with fine-motor skills, including coordination and manual dexterity. Toys that require assemblage can provide great learning tools with the reward of a finished toy at the end. Those toys with screws, can be put together with a manual screwdriver, learners will use their fine-motor skill to piece together these movable puzzles. To increase use of manual dexterity, let children use their fingers to turn the screws instead of the drill or screwdriver. Adult discretion is obviously implied in these activities, safety and reasonable level of challenge should be the first thing considered when choosing the appropriate activity.
I also want to add that encouragement and praise for good effort weather or not the child is fully ‘successful’ is important. The whole idea is that toys and games can make learning and practicing skills that need extra effort become fun and enjoyable for them that they motivate the learner to do them on their free time as a fun thing to do. Either way the learner is being exposed to the process and some degree of improvement is always a good possibility.

Does anyone have a favorite Game or Toy that has helped them or someone they know develop a skill?
How much does the level of enjoyment an activity provides, affect how long you stick with it?


One thought on “Toys and Games- How Children Learn

  1. There is no better way for children with learning disabilities to learn and improve their skills than through playing with toys that challenge their abilities yet keep them entertained and happy.

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