The other day, Scott and I were talking about baby toys and how I don't like those annoying "educational" toys that basically just light up and make noises at you.
I outlined a few criteria for toys that I *do* like:
1. Open-ended. This includes blocks, dolls, that sort of thing. There isn't just one thing you can build with a set of blocks; there isn't just one narrative you can act out with a houseful of dolls.
2. Requires active play rather than passive consumption. So, a ball is better than a video, because with the ball you actually have to interact with it in order for it to do anything, whereas the video just goes on regardless of whether you're engaged or sitting there glassy-eyed staring into the middle distance.
Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, as there always are. :) For example, a book on tape is not really open-ended (unless it's a choose-your-own-adventure book on tape, I guess), nor does it require active participation. Does this mean I'll never let my kids listen to books on tape? Of course not! I plan to actively encourage it, in fact.
(For that matter, I don't think videos are inherently bad either--they just seem like they should be the dessert rather than the meat.)
I don't really have a point with this post...I'm just getting down these thoughts as they come to me so maybe one of these days they'll all mesh together into some kind of coherent educational philosophy.