Learning Through Play

In the early years, the main way that our children learn and develop ideas is through play. For children, play is fun but it is also their work. Play is an opportunity for children to learn new skills, practice skills learnt and to develop new skills. At the Toy Library we try to stock toys that will enhance childrens skills and help them to discover more about the world around them. A well-chosen toy encourages a child to use old skills in a slightly new way and then to build up a new skill. It is important that a toy is difficult enough to be a challenge but easy enough for the child to succeed in what she/he sets out to do (e.g. a child can be shown how to do a jigsaw puzzle the first few times but it is not a suitable puzzle if he/she needs help every time.) Children often need older people (parents, brothers, sisters etc.) to help them to learn how to use toys; especially the educational type of toy. Sometimes a toy can be used in a number of ways and if you play together you can help each other to discover these variations.

Imaginative Play

Imaginative Play is one of the most important types of play for consolidating learning (particularly for over 2 year olds). Imaginative play is also great way to develop social and language skills. During imaginative play children will imitate the things that they have seen and the language that they have heard. It is a time for them to explore and experiment a and try out new roles, such as being a puppy, pirate or being sick, in order to make sense of the world around them. Sometimes children will become very involved in their own imaginative play but at times they will allow you into this play, and it is then when you can model appropriate language, social skills and ideas. Toys that your children could use for imaginative play include: cars and garages, puppets, kitchen sets, tool sets, dress-up clothes and animals.

Investigative Play

Children can find out about the world around them through investigative play. This is another very easy type of play to encourage in young children as they are inherently curious about the way things work. Toys that your children could play with include: musical instruments (discovering different sounds), basic science equipment (ie. bug catchers, magnets), cranes and blocks (discovering balance and how to make strong structures), bath toys (discovering the properties of water) and art and craft toys (discovering different materials and how to use them). To extend your childs thinking during this play you can ask them open ended questions, questions that require more than a yes/no answer, i.e. how, what, where?

Problem Solving

Throughout their lives, your children will benefit from being good at problem solving and thinking creatively. Toys to borrow for your child to encourage problem solving skills include: jigsaw puzzles, constructions sets, cranes and numeracy box sets, and cause and effect toys such as posting boxes, rattles and baby activity tables. Some CD Roms and computer games (such as the ABC Kids website) are great for developing these skills. Again, open-ended questions are a great way to extend your childs thinking.

Outdoor Play

In a world where children can be entertained for long periods of time by TV and computers, it is especially important to make sure your child has a balanced life-style, with plenty of physical activity. Toys that can motivate your child include see-saws, swings, rockers, croquet sets and sporting equipment such as Frisbee catchers and ball catchers.

Early Literacy Skills

Literacy skills include spoken, visual and written language. Early literacy experiences to encourage pre-reading and writing skills could include reading books together and speaking to children about concepts such as turning pages from right to left and reading words from left to right by pointing to them as you read, reading recipes with children as you cook or junk mail as you prepare a shopping list, encouraging children to view road signs and shops signs and pointing out letters on signs or in books. Spoken language is an important part of literacy development. Talk to your child all the time, even if its just about everyday things such as what you are doing while you prepare lunch, what they are doing with their toys, how their day has been or what you can see on a walk. You can model listening and speaking skills to children by encouraging them to listen to the speaker before responding. Toys that you can borrow to encourage early literacy skills include board games, felt boards (for creating their own stories) and flash cards. We also have Literacy Kits available for borrowing (See Services page).

Early Numeracy Skills

Early maths skills include number recognition, counting, measuring, comparing and sorting. You dont have to be good at Maths to teach your child early maths skills. By simply counting objects with your child as they play, reading numbers on letter boxes and talking about the odd and even numbers, making colour or shape patterns with everyday objects such as pegs or sharing a cooking experience with your child you are encouraging their early maths skills. Toys that you could borrow for your child to encourage early maths skills include: numeracy box sets, board games, dominoes, sorting toys and plastic or wooden blocks.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills are the movements that children need to learn in order to pick up small objects, hold a pencil, draw and write. Fine motor skills can be practiced through experiences such as peg-pictures, painting, cutting with scissor, sticker books and playing with play- dough. Toys that you can borrow to encourage fine motor skills include: construction sets, felt boards, threading, board games (moving the counters), doll houses (moving the small parts), jigsaw puzzles, peg boards, stacking cups and shape sorting toys and games.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross Motor Skills are the larger movements that we make. Young children can improve their co-ordination and balance through many outdoor activities such as playing on a play ground. Toys that your children could play with include: sporting equipment, small basket ball rings, rockers, sea-saws and stepping stones.

Language Development

Talking with your child is the most important part of early language development. You can talk with your child about any of the toys that you borrow from the Toy Library. In fact having some special toys in your house will give you a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your child and engage in conversation where you can use words which are new and meaningful to them.

For more information about childhood development, please see the websites on our Resources page.