When it comes to purchasing educational toys for your kids, I have a suggestion. If your son or daughter is interested in realistic toys (like cookware or tools), I would suggest that you forget all the glitzy toy versions. We’ve spent more money on pint-sized kitchen items and tiny tools than I care to remember. In nearly every case, these little toys did not entertain for long, and in many cases, they just frustrated the kids. That child-sized “real” sewing machine was so annoying, it nearly insured my daughters would never sew again. The mini-bake oven was pitiful. My sons’ little tools weren’t strong enough to build anything. They just broke.
We finally realized that the kids learned more with real tools – and enjoyed them more as well. Four years ago (when my girls were 7 and 10) we started buying them real kitchen tools – hope chest quality. They were so excited by their beautiful measuring cups, cookie sheets, and dish towels, that they immediately put them to good use baking chocolate chip cookies. We’ve loved it – and put on pounds in the process! Last year, my ten-year-old daughter wanted one of those play blenders. Having learned by experience, we bought her a real one. She’s been making us delicious smoothies several times a week. This year we bought her a deep fryer, and she’s been making homemade potato chips and donuts (warm, covered with sugar…yum!). Another daughter received a rolling pin and pie plates to make delicious homemade pies. One of my daughters got the Fix it and Forget it Cookbook for Christmas, and now she’s busy making us delicious crockpots of chili and soup. This has been much more fun for the girls (and cheaper for us) – and educational (though please don’t tell them I said so) – than one of those little toy ovens that “really bake” or plastic foods.
We’ve given the girls access to the sewing machine and bought them real scissors and pins, and now they’re making their own doll clothes – and even clothing for themselves. We’ve left yarn, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and pattern books in a basket by the couch, and now they’re making hats and shrugs. This year we gave our 8 year old son a real knife with a hollow handle (from Vision Forum – click here). Inside the handle are hidden a treasure trove of real tools: a compass, fish hooks and line, a saw. We also gave him a rechargable drill – and he promptly fixed the missing spindles on our porch stairs.
The concept is: When real tools are your toys, then your work becomes your play. Our computer-geek son enjoyed experimenting with his soldering iron (a real one) and boxes of computer parts. Last year we bought our 6 year old a real toolbox with a real hammer, screwdrivers, and a tape measure. We added some scrap lumber – and he’s never stopped playing. He’s even taking to fixing things around the house. Really. Of course there was that time when he removed the bathroom doorknob, replaced it lock-side out, and locked his brother in the bathroom. On purpose. And, he figured out how to do that all by himself with his trusty tools – I kid you not. Consider yourself warned.