I wasn't surprised when I read today that watching a Baby Einstein DVD won't make a kid smart. The Disney Co. is offering refunds to any parents who feel ripped off that these videos didn't turn their children into geniuses.
While Baby Einstein DVDs are an educational bust, wonderful learning toys exist that can make your young child smarter and eventually a better student.
I'd argue that the best single toy that you can buy for your child is a cheap set of wooden blocks.
Academic research has suggested that playing with wooden blocks and other construction toys like LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Erector Sets and K'NEX can benefit a child by:
- Increasing math performance.
- Promoting creative problem solving.
- Improving language skills.
- Spurring out-of-the-box thinking.
Frank Lloyd Wright. The famous architect credited blocks with prompting him to be an architect. "The maple wood blocks," he once said, "are in my fingers to this day." Wright's son John invented Lincoln Logs.
R. Buckminster Fuller. The inventor of the geodesic dome played with the same type of wooden blocks that Wright owned. Milton Bradley started manufacturing these blocks in the U.S. in 1872.
Larry Page. As a child, Google's co-founder built a working ink-jet printer out of LEGOs and he used LEGOs to create the external disk drive casing for Google's original server equipment.
Albert Einstein. Baby Einstein's namesake played with metal construction toys even before a Yale grad and Olympic gold medalist created the Erector Set.
Frank Gehry. The famous architect played with blocks of wood that his grandmother salvaged from a lumberyard.
Steven Chu. The Nobel Laureate and the current Secretary of Energy loved Erector Sets. "The living room rug," he once recalled, "was frequently littered with hundreds of metal girders and tiny nuts and bolts surrounding half-finished structures."
image by Holger Zscheyge. CC 2.0.