Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Toys & Games Every Kid Should Play With Growing Up

Kids play with all sorts of toys and games as they grow up, and there's certainly value in anything that allows children to engage in free, creative play.  Yet considering the kinds of skills those children will need to excel in school and later in life, all toys & games are not created equal.

With this in mind, the following is a list of items every child should have access to at the earliest age possible:

While there's clearly value in students doing all kinds of puzzles and brain games, there's something special about Tetris.

Our kids are too often taught that there's one right way to do things, one right answer to every question.  When they get to college, all the creativity and problem solving skills they need are severely lacking.

That's the beauty of Tetris: you have to think creatively to survive, and you have to do so pretty quickly.  Even better: the problem is different every time you try to solve it!  Get this game into your kids' hands in whatever format they prefer.

If you want an analog alternative, try my Fun and Easy DIY Tetris-Style Magnetic Blocks.

Speaking of toys that foster creativity, there's nothing better than Legos.  Again, kids should be playing with blocks (no matter the type) from a very young age, but Legos are something very special.  The variety of themes, block types, kits and built-in encouragement from the company to rebuild endlessly combine to form an amazing canvas for creativity.

In addition, children learn how to follow increasingly challenging directions as the sets increase in number of blocks and design complexity.  There's also no shortage of adults inspiring new and awesome ways to use these toys as a learning tool.

Card Games
Teachers who have lamented the slow death of the simple deck of cards as a fun, easy tool for learning need to thank everyone who's helped make poker popular as a spectator sport.  Because of those bracelet-loving folks, cards are still relevant to young people despite being completely and utterly analog.

What that means is that all of the great card-based educational games that have been around for a long time can still be used to engage today's kids.  Check out my list of lesson ideas and games based around cards for some inspiration, but don't forget that most traditional card games have essential skills baked right in.

Board Games
There's no shortage of board games designed primarily for learning, but even games built for fun or the challenge (Monopoly, chess, Settlers of Catan) incorporate a wide range of skills that students need.  Creativity, problem solving, basic math, following directions, even collaboration and cooperation are easy to find.  They're also cheap, readily available, and aren't limited by your access to technology (or restrictions on content therein).

Of course, you can also take this to another level by having kids create their own board games.  There's even companies that will self-publish your board game idea into something very professional looking.

Your Turn!
What other toys & games should ever child be able to play with growing up?  Disagree with anything on this list?  Am I too much of an analog educator in a digital world?  Let's discuss it in the comments.