Minds-On Toys
is a vehicle for sharing my ongoing research on educational toys (begun quite early, as the photo attests); generating some feedback; and—with the advent of the Digi-Comp kit
sending some actual toys out into the world. Each section of the site has its own particular focus and possibilities for expansion. 

 

 

 

The ToyBase provides parents and teachers with a glimpse of the wide range of educational toys— past and present—beyond what's sitting on today's store shelves.

Since at least the early 19th century, lots of toys have come to market purporting to both "amuse and instruct," or some variant of that stock phrase. The ToyBase is an effort to compile and categorize these products into a framework with some relation to their instructional intent—what they're designed to teach or accomplish. In general, the designs that have survived are the ones that "work," but each toy has its own story. I'm interested in expanding the ToyBase with more toys and more stories. Since there's no useful formal research on what name-brand toys actually teach (and I wouldn't trust it anyway), I would rather enrich these listings with first-person anecdotes, reminiscences and testimonials. That's where your feedback comes in. What educational toys were (and maybe still are) meaningful to you?

DIY offers do-it-yourself resources with instructions and illustrations.

As a teacher, parent, developer of educational software, writer of how-to manuals and online materials—and an inveterate dabbler in wood and paper crafts—I've come to see a natural conjunction between playing, building, and learning. In many cases kids (with or without parents' help) can construct their own toys. Lots of great "minds-on" toys can also be "hands-on" projects. What are your favorite sources of plans and ideas?

Send e-mail to Tim-at-mindsontoys.com

Share your insights and info! 
So that we can credit you properly for any new content that's incorporated into the site... be sure to indicate how to refer to you—full name? first name? nickname or handle? (Note: We will 
not
publish your e-mail address.)

 

Ideas includes some thought- provoking statements to seed a discussion about educational toys and learning in general.

"Educational" toys are supposed to be good for kids. But what exactly makes them "educational"? Where did our attitudes about them come from? Are parents in any position to judge instructional value? Our kids grow up all too fast, and there's no crystal ball as to outcomes: who's to say whether that ant farm will steer little Sally to a career in entomology? Does it matter, as long as it increases her interest in science? But what if the ants die? Maybe a virtual ant farm CD-ROM would be less traumatic, and teach her more? So many unknowns... maybe we should just leave things to the classroom teachers... or to the self-appointed experts who annually stamp their seals of approval on the latest crop of learning toys. But surely a parent's role in shaping a child's learning environment goes beyond that. 
What do you think?

     

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