Educational Toys Help Parents Play it Smart During at Home Learning
Marie LaPlante is CMO of Learning Resources, Inc., an educational toy company based in Vernon Hills, Illinois. Learning Resources sells more than 1,000 hands-on learning products in more than 80 countries. Marie is a graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received her MBA at Northwestern University. Marie has spent over 30 years leading brand marketing strategy at companies such as Orbitz and AT&T Wireless. She is married with a teenage daughter who loves to learn!
- Communicate with teachers; they can provide greater insight as to where a child may need a helping hand beyond their classwork.
- Do your best to get kids off screens during school breaks!
- Reinforce social-emotional learning at home with toys that help kids identify, manage, and make sense of their emotions and behaviors.
- Educational toys are not just for areas where kids need extra support, they are also a great way to encourage your child’s strongest subjects and find new passions.
You certainly don’t need to remind anyone with school-age children that this school year looks different than in years past. They’re the ones who’ve had to figure out how to fit three student work areas plus a couple work-from-home offices into the same amount of square footage they had pre-pandemic. Suddenly they’re teachers, truancy officers, social workers, peer group substitutes and cafeteria cooks on top of everything else they’ve got on their plates.
These same parents-turned-at-home-teachers need support. They are looking for resources that will help keep their kids engaged and learning, and for supplemental tools that will help them make up some of what students are missing out on by not being in the classroom.
Learning Challenges Hit Home
If you think getting a kindergartner to sit in story circle is a challenge, try asking that same five-year-old to sit in front of a computer screen, with all the distractions of their home environment just begging their minds—and overly-active legs—to wander. Sure, you can monitor them and make sure they are present for remote learning, but a very real concern is just how much kids of any age can absorb without the in-person classroom experience.
That’s why learning through play is more important this year than ever before. Fortunately, trusted companies like Learning Resources are here to provide families with what they need to help build educational skills in a fun and engaging way that will encourage a love of learning.
Play Helps Cement the Learning
One way to help shore up at-home learning is to provide hands-on skill building toys designed to reinforce core curriculum topics. Whether you want to help concepts like fractions take hold in the real world or give your kids fun-filled ways to master language arts topics, Learning Resources offers a variety of toys and games designed to engage kids – and guide parents along the learning journey. Parents can search for what they need by subject matter and age so they can be sure to get the item that will help them with their child’s specific learning needs and interests.
Beyond traditional school subjects, parents are concerned about social-emotional learning (SEL) and the “softer” skills that kids learn when they are part of an in-person classroom experience. In a recent survey, Learning Resources polled moms with children ages 4-11 who started remote learning in March and discovered that a whopping 67% of them feel one of the things their children lost out on most was social-emotional learning - trailed by traditional subjects math (48%) and English/language arts (40%). This underscores that while academic progress is important, parents are struggling with much more than how to help their kids memorize math facts or recognize sight words.
Finding educational toys that help students express themselves and grow at home, even helping them make sense of this tumultuous year, is something we are seeing increasing interest in. For example, our Learn-a-lot-Avocados for younger children or Let's Talk Cubes for older kids are hands-on tools parents can rely on to open up important SEL discussions at home.
Whether children respond best to physical toys or if they engage more deeply with online games and activities, it is important to find these tools and leverage them to keep the learning going, even after the Zoom school session has ended. Look for free resources from brands and organizations that can range from educational online video content to gaming apps that offer an educational benefit of sorts. It’s all about engaging kids where they are, sparking their natural curiosity and desire to explore and learn.
Seek Support from Beyond Your School District
Parents are searching for not only the toys and tools that will help reinforce key educational concepts, but also for guidance and support for themselves in their new role as at-home teacher. This is why at Learning Resources we have made significant investment in our ever-expanding free library of parent resources — Learning@Home.
We have created this thoughtfully curated collection to address a wide variety of specific areas of concern to help families succeed, whether their children are learning at home or in schools. With topics that support traditional academic subject learning as well as SEL, Learning@Home offers fun activities, tips and thought-starters, games, printables and more.
Yes, this is a school year like none other, but helping our children feel okay amidst so much disruption and uncertainty is perhaps the most important lesson we must teach. When committed families and dedicated educators combine forces and take full advantage of the resources available to them outside the traditional curriculum, we can develop the love of learning throughout this challenging school year and beyond!