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
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?
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?