The Benefits of Using the Spielgaben Toys in the Early Education Classroom

– Written by Nashella Zarek, primary school teacher with Masters’ in Reading/Language Arts

I have been using this for a couple of weeks so far and I found that the benefits to using the Spielgaben toys in the classroom are virtually endless. They are a perfect tool for discovery based learning where children acquire understanding not through direct instruction, but through hands-on manipulation of objects. This type of atmosphere leads to true understanding of concepts, versus rote memorization with teacher directed objectives.

Math

Since the Spielgaben are designed based on geometric principles, the most obvious benefit of their use in the classroom would be the enhanced opportunities they provide children to make mathematical discoveries. By interacting with this set, children have the opportunity to learn about movement through the use of the simplest shape for them to hold and understand. Very young children can use these sets for counting and sorting activities.

The kits introduce different wood solids, and work their way to two dimensional shapes such as different triangles, squares, circles and half-circles and then finally points.

Instead of being taught to memorize the differences between equilateral, scalene and isosceles triangles, they are discovering them first hand.

The complimentary play guides & worksheets are great assets that provide teachers with ideas about how to best use the Spielgaben sets to develop mathematical thinking in children. Particularly, 3rd and 4th series of guides focus on more traditional mathematical thinking and concepts that children will need in later school like calculations and measurement. By mastering these concepts at a young age, and developing true understanding of them, I believe that students are prepared to excel in later math courses.

Language

Another great benefit to using the Spielgaben toys in the classroom is the language boost that they provide children. One of the greatest predictors of reading success is children’s mastery of and exposure to oral language. There is a big difference between children providing short utterances in response to a teacher’s question and one providing an explanation of a creation they are building. The Spielgaben toys may be used by small groups of children who will be engaged in conversations with each other as they are building. This type of thoughtful and respectful discourse is a goal of all educators in their classrooms.

Oral language is the precursor to written language. Written language is much more than spelling and correctly using writing conventions. It is all about making your message clear to your reader. Building strong oral language skills is the first step in turning your children into writers. Schools all over the world are turning to new ways to boost their students’ achievement in all academic areas. They are now asking children not only to correctly answer questions, but to explain the thinking behind their answers, and even standardized testing is beginning to reflect these changes. Educators are asking children not only to write during language arts assignments, but also during math and science activities. As teachers are actively seeking ways to support students in these new and more difficult standards, they are finding that they first need to teach students to talk about their thinking before they can teach them to write about it. Explaining your thought process is easy for some students, but others require support and extra practice. The Spielgaben toys offer the great opportunity to get children talking about their discoveries.

Reasoning and Cognitive Development

One place where children seem to fall short these days is in their ability to reason and problem solve. Because they spend so much of their free time in front of a television, computer or video game, they begin to lose the ability to think creatively and freely for themselves, and to solve problems independently. We want to create a generation of independent thinkers and problem solvers, not a generation of adults who are wholly reliant on those around them! The Spielgaben toys can help improve a child’s memory and concentration and their general cognitive development.

By allowing children time for free exploration with toys such as the Spielgaben, children can develop reasoning and problem solving skills that they cannot develop from more passive activities. When children are trying to figure out what piece they need to use for a building they are creating, or trying to decide how to fit all the pieces back into the box, they are using problem solving strategies. When they are working in a group to build a structure, they are learning to problem solve and possibly how to handle conflicts with others. Puzzles and toys such as the Spielgaben actively promote mathematical thinking, spatial reasoning and problem solving. Children today need more opportunities to figure things out for themselves so that they can be successful in later school with more advanced problem solving, and then as adults. The more that children learn to think in this fashion, the better they will become at it!

Finding a Spot for Spielgaben in the Curriculum

As a teacher, I am expected to cover more and more material with my students every year and by using these materials to supplement your curriculum, I found great balance of mandated curriculum, and free exploration.

One way to successfully use the Spielgaben toys is by using them with small groups of children. While teachers are working with a group of children on a skill, another group can be working independently with the Spielgaben. Teachers can either make the toys available to the group so that they can explore them freely, or challenge them to create a project together using the play guides as a reference. If you follow a math workshop curriculum, the toys make a perfect task for children to work on independently while the teacher is working with a group.

I also found that it can be used as a mini-lesson or a math exchange lesson, especially during a unit on geometry. In these types of lessons, children are offering explanations of their thinking and exchanging ideas with one another about problem solving.

After using these toys, I found that the benefits to the Spielgaben toys are vast. They are appealing to children, and teach them a multitude of skills, all of which are necessary for later success. I strongly believe that these toys are a perfect addition to an early childhood classroom and highly recommend other teachers.

{Disclosure: This is a sponsored article for Spielgaben. In lieu of payment, I received a new Spielgaben set. All opinions remain my own}