by: Michael Kabel


Young children crave learning from the very first stages of infancy. Choosing the best educational toys for your child means not only providing them with hours of fun, but sets the stage for the years of schooling still to come.

            Learning also promotes the imagination, which recent research shows is a crucial part of a baby's emotional development. A healthy imagination, coupled with an active mind, can result in years of solid mental health for your child. When choosing the best educational toys, consider the opportunities presented that will stretch and stimulate the imagination. 

            One gift that stimulates the imagination is the playtime costume, or outfit. These are the baby-sized versions of more adult apparel, usually evoking a sense of adventure. A miniature baseball uniform, a cowboy outfit (a favorite among children for half a century) or a ballerina costume provides not only comfort but a sense of possibility to a young mind, and reinforce the notion that anything is possible. Such thoughts act to bolster self-esteem and confidence in the child's development. 

            Another perhaps unusual educational baby gift for the very young toddler is a spoon set. Children love to feel grown up, and working with spoons gives them a sense of creativity but also trains their reflexes and basic motor skills. A simple activity of moving sand from one pail to another keeps children occupied, but also stimulates brain activity and teaches them a sense of proportion and balance. 

            For language skills, toys that teach the alphabet or even simple words and sentences give your child a boost in preschool and kindergarten. Pictograms, for example a picture of a car or a cross, help your child to associate visual signs with abstract concepts. Books which feature animals, machines, or even buildings are ideal for this purpose. Also, basic toys, such as a simple helicopter or even a piggy bank, encourage children to learn proportion and shape and gather their own sense of relation to objects in the larger world. 

            Finally, gifts and toys such as puppets, paper dolls, and stuffed animals encourage children to create their own stories, which can bring a big advantage to their verbal and cognitive development. Encouraging children to create their own stories also gives them a sense of comfort and confidence in the world, and fosters self-esteem by learning from their own accomplishments. The toys can be quite simple - even as simple as a basic sock monkey or puppet with a movable mouth, but the benefits are often immediate and substantial. All parents want their children and happy, and studies show that children who feel in control of their own imagination and environment are frequently happier and better-adjusted than those without resources to develop their creativity. As always, the child's imagination is key.