Best educational toys for toddlers

Bismillah,

We had visitors over the weekend and a friend offered to take the girls for sleepover. So, I agreed and off they went. However, little I was looking everywhere for his sisters. He kept asking for them and was going nearly mental lol. So,Monday morning, first time in a long long time, I had to sit down and keep him occupied. We have played few of their hands-on toys to revise/learn some numeracy and literacy skills. So, I have decided to write a review for some of the best toys worth investing, in my opinion. I say in my opinion because this is purely based on our own experience. My kids loved these toys, spent hours with them and learnt a lot through playing them. So, here is my list of 6.

1. The Alphabet wooden blocks. Perfect for little hands to grab. You can use these in a number of ways to teach both the Arabic and English alphabet. It also has numbers on the other two sides. We usually make an Alphabet train by putting the blocks in the right Alphabetical order. Or mix up and ask a child to identify a particular letter you have been learning that week. Here is the link to this resource. I have bought ours when big S was born. After nearly 7 years of being used by 3 kids, it still has plenty of life left for baby S to enjoy when she is older inshaAllah

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2. The shapes wooden blocks. This is especially good for hand-eye coordination, to teach both the shapes and the colours. All my kids loved this. The one we had was from Asda Living store but this is easily available in ELC and ToysRus or online shops. This has 15 shaped wooden blocks, perfect for little toddler hands.

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3. Foam blocks. These are quite chunky in size but has been such a hit. Excellent to make any construction using varied shaped foam blocks, review shapes/colours whilst building things. Excellent to encourage creativity and hand-eye coordination. I got two large packs in car boot when big S was a baby. All 3 children still play with these daily

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4. Wooden blocks and pieces for constructing castles, houses, farms and just about anything you can imagine. These we bought recently after all the constructive materials have been such a hit in our household. My children love playing with legos, foam blocks, wooden blocks. We keep all of these in a large plastic box so they are all mixed up. They spend at least 2 hours a day playing with them. We had these wooden blocks with a trolley from ELC, again bought when big S was a baby. Since they play all the blocks really well and they play them a lot, we have decided to buy them a new addition to their constructive box. Like I said, it has been a hit since the pack had unusual items and pieces.

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This is what their houses look like when nearly finished. But, they keep changing and adding things forever.

5. A pack of animal figurine collection from ELC. We had mini wild animals and farm animals. Ooo, these are their favourite toys. They do a lot of role-play using these. They build a farm and put the farm animals on the farm. Or they build a house for a gazelle and pretend it is hiding from a lion etc. Awesome awesome recourse to encourage imagination, creativity, to teach the names of animals, the food chain (predator, prey) etc etc

6. Knob wooden puzzles. We these ones: Arabic alphabet, English alphabet, Arabic numbers, English numbers, Animals+Shapes. Again, these are good for fine motor-skills as child is required to hold it with 2-3 fingertips and hand-eye coordination. I bought the Arabic alphabet and Arabic number wooden puzzles from Emaan productions. The rest are easily available online or in kiddies’ shops. (Something very similar to these but not exactly the same. Any knob wooden puzzle with less image is fine. I prefer not to have the English transliteration under the Arabic letters btw)

All of these are worthwhile investment as Ibrahim is using them after his two elder sisters and they are perfectly fine for baby S to enjoy next year inshaAllah.

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Evaluation and reflection in home-education.

Bismillah,

SubhanAllah, it feels like ages ago since I last posted. And it feels like there is so much to write about. Our home-education journey is going well, alhamdulillah. The children I was teaching alongside my girls have now gone to pubic school and they are trying flexi-schooling. From what I have heard, that is going well, mashaAllah.

I did consider flexi-schooling for the girls but after much thought and consultation with family and other home-edders, we decided to continue educating them at home, inshaAllah. I do believe the hours spent at home are more effective as children finish structured/supervised learning in less than 2 hours and we have the whole day ahead to cook, clean, bake, read and play together.

I was reflecting a lot recently on our current home-education structure and what needs to be prioritized. I think talking to some home-edders with older children, reading some articles on play-based learning, the importance of not to start formal education till age 7 and milestones for different age groups- made me to stop and think. Also, there was an Islamic Parenting conference at Leeds Grand Mosque the weekend before Eid. MashaAllah, the course was so informative and inspiring. It made me think and adapt even more flexible, less structured, task-based way of teaching and doing things. Alhamdulillah.

I have been thinking on reviewing and re-evaluating the following steps inshaAllah

•Aims and objectives-the objectives of teaching/educating
•Content- lesson plans, methods and materials
•Organization- implementation, techniques
•Evaluation- review, feedback and reflection
I think as home-edder we constantly need to take time out to review and reflect our actions and home-edding structures and techniques. We have agreed with another home-edding mom to provide each other the  “reviewing and reflecting”  consultation service every two weeks inshaAllah. So, I am hoping the feedback we receive from each other will help us both improve, inshaAllah.
What are my aims and objectives of home-edding?
•Raise standards of achievement by offering my children an excellent learning experience
•Develop their character and instil Islamic values through Qur’an and hadith
•Bring the love of learning Islam into their life through interactive teaching methods
So, ultimately, I want my children to love Allah azza wa jaal and live by His will so they can attain good in this world and in the HereAfter, inshaAllah. Now, what are the steps that will help me to achieve this goal?
Firstly, constantly seek knowledge and improve my own relationship with Allah azza wa jaal. If I can not make learning compulsory on myself, I can not develop the love of learning in my children. They should see me: reading books, reading Qur’an daily, praying salah on time, practice the sunnah of the prophet saw in our household etc.
Secondly, what subjects am I currently teaching?
I was teaching Maths, English, Geography, Science, Islamic Studies, Tajweed, Qur’an Hifdh and Arabic language.
I have decided to make Qur’an Hifdh compulsory– we have to do it daily. And May Allah help us, it takes a huge amount of time and energy from all of us.
3 Priority subjects- Tajweed, Arabic Language and Islamic Studies.
Tajweed– usually done alongside our Qur’an hifdh sessions. So far, we have only used the traditional method of listen/repeat for tajweed. I listen to their recitation and make oral corrections when they pronounce the sound wrong. We have not introduced any of the tajweed rules (idgham, iqlab etc). To be honest, I am not confident myself as I have learned how to read Qur’an mainly by listening to sheikh and sisters’ reciting. Wherever I was not sure, I would go back and listen to sheikh’s recitation or stop and ask a sister when she is reciting etc. So, this is the same method I have used with children. Listening and oral correction of pronunciation. We also use the Ahsanul Qawaid book.
Arabic Language- I am using Gateway 1 with Safiyya and Gateway 2 with Sumayya. We also use Madinah Arabic 1 along with its supplementary materials. MashaAllah, both are doing well.
Islamic Studies– mixture of books and materials from the web. We have done About Me, My Five Senses, My Body, Seasons and Hajj theme packs from A Muslim Child is Born. MashaAllah, as usual sis um an Numan has put together such nice set of activities within Islamic framework and touch. We just loved all theme packs, alhamdulillah. We read tafseer of the surahs from Juzu Amma on Fridays. Read Islamic Story books, I have purchased some more from Islamic Foundation recently. We read and review the Tasheelul Aqaid and Hadith books. But it is mainly what practises we-parents reinforce at home that counts most towards their Islamic Studies understanding, inshaAllah. So, again, we parents and elders of the household should constantly reflect and review our own actions inshaAllah.
English- lots of reading together. Sumayya does lots of independent reading and Safiyya does guided reading. And I am still not planning to teach grammar/spelling until they are 7 years old. The conference I attended reassured so many things I have been thinking and reflecting on. And one of them was not to start any kind of formal education that might put child under pressure until 7. And focus more on life-skills and completing the tasks etc when home-edding.
To all mothers I say this from experience, I have not taught my children (currently aged 5 and 4)  any writing skills. All we did was tracing letters and writing as in holding the pen and do correct formation of letters independently. MashAllah, from what we can see our children do a lot of writing in different genres. They write stories- with correct sequencing of events that has beginning, middle and end. And in Sumayya’s case (currently aged 5), she makes full sentences in her stories, puts the intonation marks correctly, almost no spelling mistakes. I give all the credit to READING a lot as they both spend at least an hour a day just with books. So, if we want to improve their language skills then I think we should keep reading aloud to them from young age, reading together as they grow older and encourage independent reading the love of books from age 6-7 onwards. One way of doing this is, of course, by providing them with good-quality LIVING BOOKS. Regular trips to local libraries and purchasing more Islamic story books for home use will do the job inshaAllah.
So, our English lessons is so flexible, not-structured at all, based just on reading and fruitful discussions.
Math- Reviewing and reinforcing some of the concepts in MEP Year 1 with Sumayya. Reviewing numbers 10-20, colours, shapes, and some math concepts from MEP Reception with Safiyya. 1-2 a week, depending as and when we get time
We have given up the use of textbooks or any more formal learning on Geography, Science, History. We will do project-based practical things around the house, as and when we come across in books and on the net. Almost daily, they want to make something out of cardboard box, yoghurt pots, plant something etc. Recently, Sumayya made a perfume. She read the idea in one of the books we have. She got the empty jam jar, washed and dried. She collected different kinds of flower petals inside, alhamdulillah we have such variety of flowers in the garden. She put some water, closed the lid and left it for several days. When we opened the jar, the smell was so awesome. I almost could not believe as I only saw the final product and was very impressed by romantic smell of her perfume. She kept it and used it as perfume for several days.
And yesterday she put soil in small flower pot, again collected some fallen flower branches and “planted” them in her own way and brought it in to me. We left it in the garden.
Then she made a bird’s nest from box and put it in one of the bush’s in our front garden. She still loves birds and feeding them gives her such a joy.
Safiyya, too, is very creative and caring. She plays with strings, large beads, flash cards. But her favourite toy is Ibrahim. They play so nicely together and mashaAllah, Safiyya is so caring. She always acts like his little mommy, mashAllah.
Ibrahim (currently aged 16 months) is the smartest of all, lol. SubhanAllah, the minute he sees his sisters with books he gets some of his own books and sits down reading. He follows the script with his tiny-little-chubby fingers and pretends to be reading. He makes like a reading voice which makes us all laugh. When he sees his sisters writing, he gets pen and paper, starts scribbling. He can hold the pen correctly, to our astonishment. We all think he is just growing too quick and learning by just copying his sisters. He scribbles a lot on his legs, arms, knees too. He can point to all of his body-parts when we ask him. He can follow all the instructions/actions we ask him to do such as: Close the door, sit down, stand up, bring me a book, bring me a ball, raise your hand, put your feet down, bring me a toy etc.
He does animal voices for most animals like cat, dog, duck, mouse etc. When reading a book, he copies the actions of characters in pictures. If a bear is crying on certain page, he makes a sad face. If a bird is smiling on the next page he makes a happy face. He feeds himself, explains very well what he wants. He can say a lot of the words in his own vocabulary use: dad, grandma, bread, water, apple, melon, book, socks. And, finally, he understands almost anything we say to him, subhanAllah. Or, perhaps we understand him too well, lol.
He is so social and appears to be confident. We stayed for Eid breakfast at the masjid following the Eid prayer. He was lost in big hall several times because he wanders off, tries to talk to people, sit in their lap, physically turn their faces towards him with his hands if they are not looking and not concerned at all where mommy was or grandma was. He loves going outside, visiting neighbours and new people in our house.
Anyway, this was my reflection post reviewing aims/objectives and content of teaching/subjects. I will do another one on organization and evaluation inshaAllah when I get time. Hope you benefit from it and if you do then please share it, inshaAllah.