The book “IQ and human intelligence” by N.J Macintosh quotes several studies which show that a child’s IQ is fluid and can go up or down as the years progress. Researchers tout the critical window-period as age 0-5 during which a child is a proverbial sponge or blank slate. During these years that a child has a virtually unlimited potential, depending on environment and exposure to educational toys.
As parents we can capitalize on this amazing potential depending on what we expose our children to. From infancy, children learn primarily through Human interaction and Play. If you hold your baby, make frequent eye-contact, show affection and converse with her, you are increasing her chances of being healthier and smarter. As the child grows, they still learn best through those two fundamentals of positive human interaction and play. Toys designed to facilitate such learning can be valuable tools in a child’s academic development especially educational toys.
Rhoda Ogembo, Headmistress at Little Me Kindergarten, explains. “Educational toys are so important for learning because children are concrete thinkers, not abstract. They cannot grasp hypothetical concepts. You have to show them.” In her 20 years of experience she has seen the benefits of adopting a play-based approach using the proper tools rather than a purely academic approach of pen, paper and blackboards.
Sheena Mokua, a Kenyan mother of three and Montessori teacher in the U.K gives an example, “Activities like beading are so important for pre-schoolers because they learn sorting and grouping, counting and self-correction. Such simple toys are the best because they lay a solid foundation.” Wood is a preferred material especially at an early age for its safety and durability. Stacking toys such as wooden blocks are highly rated for their multiple benefits. A study showed that they improve mathematical and logical skills in children who used them versus a control group.
Boniface Kamiti, father of two toddlers and proprietor of Eco-Toys Kenya explains, “Blocks enhance creativity and logical thinking and promote communication skills. By constructing different structures, children learn the principle of cause-and-effect and verbalize what they are doing.” Such toys have been shown to benefit special needs children and can be found in certain hospitals and schools.
Jayne Wacera, a former early-learning teacher who designs educational materials emphasizes that these provide the most benefit when coupled with hands-on parenting. “We have some parents come into our shop at the Junction to inquire about appropriate toys for a specific need. One parent knew her child’s strengths and weaknesses and purchased the correct toy for her; later she reported improvements.” It is actually a good idea to go with your child so they can recommend toys for his or her needs. An abacus is highly recommended for mathematics. Young ones use them for subtraction, addition, fractions, even multiplication. Children with attention difficulties do well with a simple timer to signal the end of a task.
Sheena adds that no toy is a silver bullet for turning your child into an overnight genius. All of these toys work only when they come with parent-to-child interaction. Children in an Australian poll overwhelmingly responded that they would prefer time with their parents to any toy. Success stories usually include children whose parents spend some minutes each day in some activity with them. “The single most powerful learning factor for success is reading aloud to children. This is especially so during the preschool years,” says the report Becoming a Nation of Readers. Dorothy Butler, author of Babies Need Books, says: “The quality of an individual’s thought will depend upon the quality of his language. Language is at the center stage as far as learning and intelligence are concerned.”
Mary Millin who is home-schooling her 3 children advocates making the entire home conducive to learning. Simple magnetic letters on her fridge enabled her first-born to teach himself how to read by age 3. “We would show him the word of the day, and he would make it on the fridge. When out and about, he would practice reading signs and billboards.” Geraldine Owuor also took advantage of outings with her daughter Nyawanga. “We practised numbers by counting each stair as we walked up the staircase in the mall”. Pointing out colours of cars, counting the fruits you are purchasing at the market, the tables in a restaurant. Naming objects like trees, grass, flowers, and ketchup are all fun ways to build your child’s rate of understanding.
Martha Mbugua, proprietor of SMILE Toys, used educational toys with her own children who are now grown. “When kids see lots of colour they derive a lot of fun from their learning. Rather than figures and numbers, you literally show them 3 balls and add one ball to get 4. This keeps them engaged because their attention spans are so short”. The point is to provide fun, age-appropriate stimulation to encourage the child to learn through play.
None of these require a parent to break the bank. Alphabet charts, number charts and world maps are cheap and readily available. When these are placed in the child’s room or play-area, they make effective teaching tools. Educational toys can be great innovations for early learning, especially when balanced with outdoor activities and random play. But as the parent you are the most important factor.
When you regularly spend time with your children, read to them and adopt a fun learning approach using appropriate tools, you will most definitely boost your child’s IQ. You can even do this more during the holiday.
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