Educational Toys for Early School Age Children
It is vitally important to continue your efforts to nurture creativity in your child at the early school age. As children start elementary school and begin spending more and more time with a wider circle of people, it is not uncommon for them to lose interest in certain activities. By nudging your child toward creative play and the use of his or her imagination, you offer a child of this early school age a significant resource for excellence in everything he or she pursues. Educational toys to consider at this level include puppets, dollhouses, costumes and other pretend items, toy pianos and musical instruments; more comprehensive building block and construction sets offering more complex structure opportunities, and as always, lots of writing and art supplies, so that expressing feelings creatively is as simple as picking up a pencil.
Appropriate playthings for early school age children include:
electric trains (UL approved)
larger bicycles prop boxes and costumes
fashion and career dolls
doll house and furniture
art materials of all kinds
work bench with real tools
roller and ice skates
How you can help
1. Play games with children and help them practice sport activities that interest them.
3. Ask children about their toys and play. "Tell me about it," and "What did it feel like?" are good questions. Show an interest in their hobbies and collections.
4. Children this age feel big and important when they can do things with you. Let them be a real part of what you are doing. Be careful not to do things for them that they can do themselves.
5. Read *Good Times with Play* and *Good Times Being Creative* for more ideas.
Children enter elementary school at 5 or 6. At this time, play may be directed more toward specific goals like learning to reador add. Word games, clay, puzzles, and games designed to make learning fun are used extensively in schools.
For the first time, these children may want to read favorite stories to you. Their need to dream and pretend can be met with comic books and fairy tales. They want to try to do things, but may give up before a project is completed. Kits and models must be simple, and take only a short time to complete.
Card games are fun and provide chances to learn rules and develop more complex thinking skills. If the Old Maid isn't there, then he must have it! Checkers also help the child think ahead.
A lot of children this age enjoy play with small pets, but they need help in training and caring for them. By this time children are probably choosing their own playthings and playmates.
Remember, like toddlers, the attention span of preschool children is short. They should not be urged to continue singing or to participate in dancing or rhythmic activities after they have lost interest. Let the child's interest be your guide.
Most 6- to 9-year-olds like songs about everyday happenings. Songs that involve counting, spelling, or remembering a sequence of events are popular. Songs and musical activities with other school subjects also are effective during this developmental stage. Words that tell stories about athletic games, other countries, famous men and women, or scientific discoveries are well-liked and easily remembered. Verses still should be fairly short and limited to one thought.
Early school-age children are able to establish firm relationships with their companions and may use musical experiences to form friendships. They may have a strong interest in taking music lessons or playing in a band. They also may want to listen to records after school with a group
of friends or sing in a church or community choir. They are conscientious about practicing and especially like percussion instruments. This age group likes rhythm and can dance or clap in time to the music. Rhythm is important and fun to them!
If you are the caregiver for an early school-age child, you may not have to initiate musical activities. Children, ages 6 to 9, can choose their own friends and activities and organize their own experiences. Listen to the music they may want to play foryou.
Suggest that everyone sing and play musical instruments together as a group. If you let the children take turns directing this "jam session" and join in as an enthusiastic member, their interest will surely last longer.
Six- to 9-year-olds have longer attention spans. They love to solve puzzles and mysteries and enjoy stories about adventures. The younger children in this age group are learning to read while the older ones may already be reading well. Most children this age have large vocabularies and become good thinkers and problem solvers.
Unlike younger children, 6- to 9-year-olds understand that others may think and feel differently than they do. This is the age that children really want to please adults and caregivers by completing jobs they have been asked to do. They enjoy trying to read more books than their friends, and often compete with their friends in "reading races." Maybe you can get one started while you are involved with this age group.
Children this age also are curious about other people and places. They want to hear about other lands and what life was like a long time ago. They are beginning to recognize their own values and are interested in comparing themselves with others. Usually, they see behavior as either right or wrong and often demand that rules be followed, no matter what!
Children in early elementary school have a terrific sense of humor. They enjoy unlikely situations, stories about triumphs of others, and slapstick comedy. Often these children are sensitive to criticism and their feelings are easily hurt. It is important to them to be accepted by their friends. You can help them feel accepted by reading books about new subjects they can share with their friends.
Favorite topics for this age to read include stories about other lands, outer space, famous people, humor, family relationships, feelings, hobbies, mysteries, spooks and ghosts, sharks, and fast-moving adventures.
How you can help:
School-age children are not only able to tell stories, but also write them down and illustrate the stories themselves. Early school-age children enjoy reading these and other stories to you.
By this age, many children may be taking classes in gymnastics. Early school-age children often try to imitate the current dance craze in movement and may be learning to play a real musical instrument.
The fantasy play of early school-age children contains some make-believe. By this age, fantasy usually includes action-oriented games like "superheroes" or "horses." Much of the school-age child's time also deals with daydreaming. Some daydreams become real as children start to act out stories and plays.
1. Provide early school-age children with art and craft materials based on their interests. It is still important to allow children to be original and use materials as they wish.
2. Early school-age children enjoy simple needlework activities. They can draw a design on plastic needlepoint canvas with permanent markers and then use yarn to sew the design.
3. Be a receptive audience when children want to read to you from either a story they have written or a book.
4. Allow children to show you the skills they have been learning in dance and gymnastics classes. Teach them dances and movements you know.
5. Be a producer, and help early school-age children put on a play. Organize props, and help at rehearsal, but be careful not to stifle creativity and the children's input and ideas.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Lagoni, L. S., Martin, D. H., Maslin-Cole, C., Cook, A., MacIsaac, K., Parrill, G., Bigner, J., Coker, E., & Sheie, S. (1989). Good times being creative. In *Good times with child care* (pp. 239-253). Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.