According to Curriculum in Early Education, a professional enhancement book by Thomson, there are some criteria that should be followed when choosing play materials. You want young children to be able to use their play for growth and development.
“Teachers play an important role in providing choices of good quality playthings that match children’s developmental abilities and interests.”
This goes for parents too!
Here are some of the criteria CEE sets forth about a young child’s playthings:
- As free of detail as possible. Too much detail can actually hamper creativity and expression.
- Stimulates children to do things for themselves. Play equipment that allows children to explore without adult assistance is best. (This does not mean unmonitored or unwatched, however.)
- Large and easily manipulated. Small toys can be too frustrating for a young child’s developing coordination.
- Material with quality construction that is pleasing to the touch and durable.
- Must work. Don’t hold on to broken things.
- Simple construction that is easy for a child to comprehend.
- Encourages cooperative play. Items that help children socialize and work together.
- Total usefulness. Items that will grow with children, through different stages, are the best investment
Please note that these guidelines have been summarized and are not written word for word. They are starting points or suggestions to help you invest in great playthings, without wasting money and frustration.
And, don’t forget, the great outdoors is one of the best “play resources” there is- equipment or not!
The National Association For The Education Of Young Children (NAEYC), has a great breakdown for you of toys by age and stage: Good Toys for Young Children
Early Childhood News also has a list of resources for Parents and Teachers: Choosing Appropriate Toys and Equipment For Young Children