I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the value of play to children. Play is essential to the healthy development of children across a variety of different parameters. For instance, play not only helps them to develop physically (think motor skills and muscle development), but it also helps them with socialization and the development of their intellect. Since Canadians of all ages face a variety of mental health issues every single day, it strikes me that this last example is particularly important. After all, play can help with all manner of growth and development—from reading and mathematics to bolstering communication skills and gaining proficiency with complex problem solving, just to name a few. Moreover, those that develop the tools to handle life’s difficulties early on are sure to fare better when life’s inevitable stresses arise later on. Join me today as I explore a handful of toys and related items that can help to develop the mind and build confidence and self-esteem in the young to get them off to a solid start in their lifelong journey of good mental health.

 

Good Mental Health Begins Early

I am a big believer in the idea that a good dose of confidence can help to combat many of the self-defeating thoughts that lead to sadness and depression. Below you will find a selection of toys and related gadgets that can do everything from teaching valuable life skills to building confidence to facilitating socialization and a whole lot more. Hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you to come up with some great suggestions of your own, and if so, please let me know what they are in the comments section below.

 

One of the best ways to challenge young minds and encourage the development of problem solving skills from an early age is putting together complex jigsaw puzzles. An excellent example of just such a puzzle is the Eurographics Modern Map of the World Jigsaw Puzzle. Perfect for learning political geography, this puzzle consists of 1000 pieces and shows the countries of the world as well as numerous major cities. Among the benefits of a puzzle like this are the development of picture recognition and fine motor skills. Also great for promoting both independent and cooperative play, puzzles can lead to a solo sense of accomplishment or some valuable socialization.

Another fun brain teaser for the puzzle loving crowd—young and old alike, is the classic 3 x 3 Rubik’s Cube (shown in the header image above). There’s actually a surefire algorithm that, once learned, will have your friends thinking you’re a Rubik’s Cube genius, as it makes solving this seemingly impossible puzzle an absolute breeze—provided you can master its secrets!

If inspiring confidence in your growing child is a goal that’s important to you, you might want to consider another form of puzzle that I have personally always enjoyed—a fun LEGO set. Something like the 468 piece LEGO Architecture: London set is not only a challenging and satisfying build, but it’s also great for anyone with an interest in the field of architecture. 

In my own experience, I have found LEGO to be a great confidence builder, and the more complex the set, the greater the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing it.

If a structured building project is something that your child could benefit from (maybe they have difficulty focusing their attention on what’s in front of them and you’d like to give them some practice?), then LEGO is certainly a great choice.

Similarly, kids can just toss out the blueprints altogether and let their own creativity take over (although a more generic LEGO set may be in order if unbridled creativity is the goal). Remember, there are hundreds of different LEGO sets available to choose from, so building virtually anything with LEGO is certainly possible.

 

 

Another structured project, and one that any child with an affinity for computers is sure to appreciate, is the Kano Complete Computer Kit with Screen. What’s more, at the end of this project, your child will have their very own computer to use and enjoy. Along the way, he or she will connect all of the different parts together and learn a great deal about what makes a computer function.

Once it’s built, there are numerous step-by-step challenges and games that teach the principles and practice of coding to young children in a way that’s both fun and engaging. Who knows, a toy like this might even lead to the emergence of a future Bill Gates or Steve Jobs! But even if that is not the case, this is still a great confidence builder and an extremely educational set.

 

One of the biggest promoters of educational play over the last few years is a toy company called Sphero. Sphero has released a variety of robotic, app controlled, educational toys that teach kids valuable (and highly employable) skills such as computer coding and programming. The latest addition to Sphero’s product line—the Sphero BOLT Robotic Ball, is no exception to this rule. With the ability to drive around and play fun games, this toy would be valuable enough without the educational aspect. However, this LED equipped ball can teach kids to write code in the popular JavaScript coding language when used with the Sphero EDU App. It’s also fully programmable—both insofar as where it rolls to as well as in how its LEDs light up. If you want to inspire your kids and spark an interest in the STEM fields at the same time, the Sphero BOLT is a great way to do so.

 

Finally, I don’t want to suggest that only brain-teasing toys are good for one’s mental health and development. It’s also very important for kids to frequently get outside and get some fresh air and physical activity. For this reason, I’ll leave you with the Little Tikes Easy Score Soccer, Hockey, and Lacrosse Set With Net as my final suggestion.

 

 

Not only does a set like this encourage teamwork and cooperation (which is great for socialization), but it also helps kids with problem solving (how to get the ball, puck, whatever, past those other guys and into the net) as well as helping them to develop their creativity and imaginations (i.e., whenever you see a creative athlete score a beautiful goal, it’s usually thanks to their imaginative intelligence).

Included here is everything your small children will need to play either hockey, lacrosse, or soccer. The net is even size adjustable so as to work for all 3 sports. There are only a couple of hockey/lacrosse sticks included in the set though, so you may want to add a few more of those yourself to accommodate a larger game. But either way, your kids are in for some great outdoor fun.

 

With these final thoughts in mind, I just want to encourage everyone to remember the importance of good mental health. For some people, this is truly a lifelong struggle, while for others it may seem to come easy, though that is rarely (if ever) the case. We all seem to struggle at times, but there are things we can do to encourage happiness and good mental health in ourselves, our kids, and others. I believe that building kids’ confidence early is a crucial first step.

You can find these toys and many other confidence-building items at Best Buy.

Leonard Bond
Originally from Nova Scotia, I currently live with my wife in Burnaby, BC. I have previously lived in both Toronto and New Zealand as well. I love to travel and I also love classic literature and great movies (especially spy & espionage works such as those featuring James Bond & Jason Bourne). I am also a serious toy and memorabilia collector (mostly Transformers) and have a great interest in gadgets and technology of all sorts. Many things intrigue me, and that's why I'm here on the Plug-In Blog. I never know what interesting things I'll encounter next!