Housewife Anjali Gupta stocks up on toys every week for her two- year- old daughter Priya, but she does not go for a cute Barbie or a cuddly Beanie Baby; she prefers magnetic alphabets, counting boards, puzzles and concept blocks.
Gupta is not an exception: with growing worries on how to prepare their toddlers for nursery admission, an increasing number of parents prefer to buy toys that can serve as teaching tools. “Buying my daughter toys that helped her learn, aided us greatly in preparing her for admission,” says parent Dr Parinita Govil. Like Govil, many parents believe buying their child a Barbie or a battery-operated car is a waste of money. After all, in these highly competitive times, education has to start early. “I'm preparing my daughter Ashwarya for admission interview. I am happy she has already learnt ABC, and 1, 2, 3… She can also write her name. I always buy her toys that help her learn,” says Nikita Sharma, whose daughter attends play school.
No wonder the market for educational toys is growing phenomenally. “ The sales of educational toys have increased by 50 per cent in the last two years; the demand is very high during the admission season,” says Sanjay Pahwa, proprietor, Kiddiland, Lajpat Nagar.
Aruna Broota, a Delhi-based clinical psychologist, says young parents approach her everyday to check the IQ of their toddlers. “I had a case where the parents of a 2- year- old hit their child because they were unhappy with the progress she was making with educational toys, ” says Broota. So, is this growing emphasis on learning through play healthy for the child? “While the right educational toys can enhance the child’s skills , parents need to buy age-appropriate toys,”says Poonam Agarwal, educationist.
But some experts believe parents tend to use toys as mere objects of study and expect results from children, who miss on the fun aspect of a toy. “Parents have to ensure education is not forced on children. They need to let the child discover the toy in her own way ”says Nandita Chaudhary, Reader, department of Human Development and Childhood Studies, Lady Irwin College.