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How Kids Learn With Toys: A Horse and Buggy Story

July 20, 2011

By Guest Blogger Samantha from Have Sippy Will Travel

Children learn in many different ways, and sometimes the most surprising interests will emerge.  Here’s a story of one little boy’s “course of study” in transportation, history, religion, culture, biology, engineering, animal husbandry and much more, facilitated by one simple wooden toy.  The best educational learning toys can help spark questions and enhance understanding of all these subjects without even being labeled “educational!”  What do your kids learn with the help of their toys?

My Son is Obsessed With The Amish

We’ve been spending a lot of time in Amish Country lately.  The Amish have a life that is simpler than many of ours, more old-fashioned.  My son, who is 3, has really taken a shine to Amish Country, and always has a lot of questions for his momma when we are there, and for days after we get home.  What kind of machine is that?  How many babies do cows have?  How do they get all the corn inside?  Why does it look so different when I eat it?

Horses & Buggies vs. Cars & Trucks

The Amish use horse-and-buggies or carriages to get around, and this is also amazing to my son.  He has become very, very interested in horses, and what they do, and all the uses for a horse on a farm, and off it.  We bought him the Melissa and Doug Horse Carrier a few months ago, and he just loves it.  It is a classic wooden vehicle that comes with two horses.  It is pulled by a truck, but that’s OK – it’s the carrier and the horses that caught his attention.  I took him to a local (modern) horse stable, and let him see how people ride the horses, feed them, where they sleep, and one of the owners was nice enough to show him how he transports his horse.  That carrier looked more like this toy, but metal, of course.

A Million More Questions

My son had a lot more questions for me:  Why don’t Amish use cars?  How come they have different carts?  I know he is young to take it all in, but I love toys that help facilitate learning, and will give him a platform for all this information to really sink in later.  He understands that Amish is a religion, that the carriers take the horses where they need to go, and that the horse pull farm machines for the Amish and used to for all farmers.  The horse carrier, my son, and I have spent quite a bit of time at the library with books about farms, horses, and the Amish.  Soon we will all visit a working Amish farm, where we will be able to see how everything works, and why.

Meanwhile, he will enjoy his Horse Carrier, and visits to the library with momma.

Is Your Kid Into Vehicles?

1.       Wooden train sets are a classic way for kids to explore the world of transportation, as well as the geometry and spatial reasoning necessary to build a track.  Many are compatible, so you can combine hand-me-downs and new components to create fabulous set for not too much money.  In our experience, it works best if you start small and add on as your child grows.

2.       Toy construction vehicles can help kids learn about how things get done – digging, lifting, cement mixing and more.  Combine a toy with a related book, like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, for an enhanced experience.  This is great if you have a construction site near your home or school – make a point to watch the progress, note what vehicles are needed and what jobs the workers do.

3.    Farm vehicles, with or without a stable or barn and some critters, can help kids learn about food production, biology, nutrition, animal care and so much more.  Like Sam did, take your kids to a local farm or even a petting zoo to deepen their understanding of farm life.

4.    A sturdy wooden sailboat is a fun way to start to understand the physics of sailing.  Take it to a swimming pool, pond or just the bathtub and explore!  Round out their education with some knot tying and a walk around a marina, if there’s one nearby, to look at all the different types of boats.

5.    Though it obviously won’t fly, a wooden biplane can introduce kids to the history of flight.  What’s different about this plane compared to a modern jet?  What makes the engines go?  Look up photos or old film footage of early planes and see how far we’ve come.

Toys that teach while they inspire hours of imaginative play are, for me, the best investment.  Children who have time to play, explore, and imagine perform better in school and in life, and are in general happier both while in their childhood and as adults.  I try to give him the gift of learning, but I like to keep in mind that he is a kid – and he just wants to play!

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