Can Toys That Teach Also Be Fun?

Animals toys that teach

Have you ever seen kids hear that a toy is “educational” or “supposed to teach them something” and then get turned off to the toy and not want to play with it?

Toys that teach get a bad rap.

It’s unfortunate that there’s this anti-intellectual streak in our culture which equates learning with “not fun.”

My approach to this problem isn’t particularly sophisticated and probably doesn’t deal with the root of the problem, but I have to say I’ve had some success by simply not announcing that we’re about to do some learning. Just don’t bring it up. With a little luck, educational play is stealthily introduced right alongside “normal” play (I put normal in quotes because so much play in general has some sort of learning aspect to it).

This tactic is helped significantly by offering kids toys that teach – toys which are educational while also being irresistibly fun.

Animal Toys are Toys that Teach

After all, it stands to reason that if a toy is simply fun while also being educational, you’re going to have a much easier time getting a kid to play with it. No surprise there!

Animal toys fit the bill perfectly in this respect. Kids almost automatically pick them up and start playing with them. As I talked about in an earlier post, animal toys work great to meet the needs of kids as they move through various child development stages.

Animal toys go beyond meeting child development needs as well. For example, by simply looking at an animal toy, a child gains a deeper understanding of the animal, being able to recognize its defining characteristics in a way that will last a lifetime.

By playing with the toy and getting familiar with the animal the toy represents, kids start to ask questions about what life is like for animals. What do elephants eat? Where do lions live? How fast can cheetahs run?

Over time these questions become more complicated. Why aren’t there more wild animals in the world? What can be done to protect the environment?

Long story short, can toys that teach also be fun? When it comes to animal toys, the answer is most definitely YES!

5 Animal Games for Girls

As you know if you’ve read my About page, my daughters are my inspiration for opening this online animal toy store. I’ve seen them spend countless hours playing with their animal toys. This means I’ve seen them play a pretty wide variety of games, scenarios, and set ups. I never fail to be surprised by what they come up with. Here are 5 animal games for girls that can be played with by animal toys that I happen to sell here.

5 Fun Animal Games for Girls Using Animal Toys

1. Horse Parades – I used to see my girls arrange their toy horses into “parades” a lot more when they were younger, but they still do it every now and then when the stories they tell require it. These parades are more or less what they sound like – long lines of horses arranged in a visually pleasing way. Sometimes they’re arranged by size or age, sometimes there are horse kings and queens. The details are all part of the play, and if you take the time to ask your girls what kind of stories are behind their horse parades, you will usually get a wonderful ear full.

2. Pet Animals – Kids love to play games which re-enact the daily life they see around them, and so it’s no surprise that they love to imagine the lives of their beloved family pets. A common animal game for girls that I see is using animal toys to play the lives of cats, dogs, birds, guinea pigs, horses, ponies, and even barnyard farm animals. Give them the toys and such play will likely follow.

3. Pet Stores and Animal Clinics – For whatever reason, when it comes to animal games for girls, when you give some girls some animal toys eventually the play will cover the subject of pet stores and animal clinics. The pet store them is pretty self-explanatory – kids love the experience of going to pet stores and seeing all the different animals in one place, and perhaps picking out a special family pet. They love to imagine themselves as pets waiting to find their future owners and families.

Animal clinics and veterinarians are a regular part of the lives of many pets, so I suppose it’s only natural that they’re going to show up in the animal games that girls play.

4. Zoos – Zoos are a favorite of boys and girls alike, so give them some animal toys – especially animals that we commonly think of as “zoo animals” – and the play seems to naturally turn towards zoo set ups of their own creation.

One thing I’ve noticed with my own daughters is that they will use whatever is handy to build zoo enclosures of all sorts. If you have any miniature fencing, then they’ll use that first, but from there they will use anything that works including blocks, plank toys, legos, whatever. So don’t forget to get some fencing! (I have to remind myself to sell some miniature fences, heh.)

5. Wild Animal Families – One of my favorite kinds of play with animal toys that I see my daughters doing, is re-enacting family life through toy animals. It’s pretty irresistibly cute. Dramas between animal siblings. Dramas between mom and dad animals. Wild adventures involving the whole family. The family is the starting point – from there entire world’s worth of adventure follow.

I’m obviously only scratching the surface here, and this is a topic that I’m sure I’ll revisit, but hopefully this will help you see all the possibilities for play that toy animals provide children, and in this case, girls.

5 Examples of How Animal Toys Work in Child Development Stages

As I’ve been learning more about how my kids develop and grow, I’ve found out that throughout a child’s development stages they actually use their toys to help them grow, develop, and gain new skills. It’s pretty cool!

1. According to Wikipedia, three and four-year-olds can hold crayons and markers using first two fingers and thumb in what’s called a tripod grasp. Reading this, it occurred to me that larger-sized animal toys are similar to holding crayons since they require the same sort of grasping and holding.

2. I also learned that setting animal toys balanced upright so that they stand up is a developmentally-related skill.

3. Other child development stages at these ages include language and social skills as kids narrate stories to themselves as they play with animal toys, as well as acting out scenes from daily life involving all sorts of social interactions.

4. Another thing I’ve noticed with my daughters is that they both went through a phase where sorting out their animal toys (horses seemed to be the most special, for some reason) and arranging them in various groups became important. Sometimes they would arrange their horses in long lines that they called parades. Just as often they would build corrals out of whatever was handy and put their horses in there. A lot of sorting, classifying arranging, and counting going on which was related to the child development stages that they were going through.

5. Also, as the girls emerged out of the parallel play of very little kids into the word of collaborative and cooperative play, their collection of animal toys became the currency with which they explored and figured out their new social skills. Needless to say it’s an ongoing process!

Animal Toys Work Great in Child Development Stages

Child development stages are a rich and complicated subject which are fascinating to learn about. While there are expert scholars and professionals who spend their whole lives learning about child development stages, there’s something special, up close, and personal seeing these processes at work in our own children. In a way, all parents become child development stages experts after helping their kids along the road of growing up.

Kids develop and grow up with or without toys and with or without our help as parents and adults, but just as we know that kids benefit immeasurably from our mindful presence and attention, we also know that simple, high quality toys – not a ton of them, and not necessarily the most expensive – will help them thrive.

The Wild Animal Store is here to help!