A large number of studies show that learning through play leaves a deeper and positive mark on child’s personality than academics. Toys are one of the most essential possessions of a child, irrespective of society they belong to. Even countries where mass-produced toys are not available easily, children find objects from nature and their surroundings to play with. Toys are more than just objects of entertainment. Parents need to understand their impact in order to assist their child’s positive development. There are numerous ways in which toys affect children of different ages. This article highlights the positive and negative effects of toys to explain the significant role of toys in child development .
How Toys Play Positive Role in Child Development?
The concept and manufacturing of toys has changed over the years. Children in past use to transform ordinary objects into games, supplies and even companions for playtime and bedtime. Today parents are faced with a far more complex toy industry. Issues of ambiguity, racism, stereotypes, branding, peer pressure and marketing affects the choice of both parents and children. We need to understand what type of toys provide positive input in our child’s development and those that do not serve the purpose. Among many positive effects of toys, some of the benefits highlighted by research include the list below.
Stimulation of Senses
Since the birth, babies develop sensory play with toys that improves their eye-hand-ear coordination and aesthetic sense. These include cot mobiles, rattles, play gyms etc. Even for older children, toys like puzzles, mirrors, flash cards, blocks, arts and crafts, musical instruments, books etc., provide assistance in stimulating senses. They also increase coordination among sensory motions.
Balance and Coordination
Toys like walkers, push cars, tricycles, hula hoop, scooter etc., teach balance and coordination to the child. They are great in providing indoor and outdoor activities for children while helping them in gaining independence. Nowadays, toys related to building and construction, magnetic structures and many others are available in market. These toys also help in establishing coordination skills in children.
Social Skills and Patience
Many indoor and outdoor toys help children in gaining important social skills. For instance, role play with dolls, swords, tea sets, or other characters can help in development of language, etiquettes, conversations and other social skills. Similalry, games like Ludo, cards, chess, checkers, Lego, puzzles are a great source of developing patience for turns, losing and controlling emotions.
Problem Solving and Cognitive Development
A large number of toys designed today are aimed at providing age appropriate activities. They aim to enhance the problem solving skills and cognitive development of children. Psychologists recommend selecting more of educational toys to make learning fun for kids. Lego and building blocks, puzzles, science experiment kits, memory games, robotic kits, shape sorter, stacking toys, construction sets and many other educational toys are available for this purpose.
Toys are a great source of developing literacy skills in children. Games related to counting, shapes, numbers like Monopoly, Scrabble, books, flash cards etc., are excellent choices for each age group. Purchasing toys that builds up literacy skills is very beneficial in developing healthy habits of reading and doing mind exercises.
This should be the simplest part of toy selection for parents. Age-appropriate motion and activity toys are available for as early as age of infancy to elders. Try to spend time and money on toys that provide an opportunity to physically engage your child. Make sure to spend time with them by teaching them how to use the product. It is important to keep their interest in learning that activity. Play gyms, bicycles, scooters, jumping rope, hula hoop, tennis, badminton etc. are all activity based toys and sports.
Controversies around Toys
Toys today have definitely become a point of controversy among parents compared to how they were perceived in the past. In Pakistani culture, toy selection is hardly given attention. It was always considered easy as girls used to get dolls, kitchen sets and Barbie sets. On the other hand, boys used to get cars, guns, blocks, or technical toys. However, with increasing trend towards gender balance around the globe and even in Pakistan, toys have become more controversial than ever. Parents buy toys for their children to keep them busy and have some peace of mind. However, unknowingly, they are inviting popular consumer culture, social norms, stereotypes and preferences in the home. The obsession with looks and low self-esteem in girls, the enforced masculinity and violence culture in boys are all linked to what we select for our kids to play with, apart from the upbringing at home.
Psychologists assert that gender stereotypes and choice of toys is also highly dependent on parents’ preconception about the toys. The effect of advertising, social media, friends and peers on parents forms a preconceived notion about certain toys and their positive and negative effects. These perceptions, peer pressure, advertising impact and half-learned facts have made toy selection extremely complicated for parents who are highly concerned about complex impact of toys on their children.
Recommendations by Psychologists on Toy Selection
Most of the toy companies collaborate with psychologists and educationists to understand needs of children from each age group and thus, we have age-appropriate educational toys as well. However, despite the presence of billion dollar industry, most of the recommendations given by psychologists or child therapists hints on their dislike for using commercialized products. 3 most important tips for parents in selecting toys for their kids include the following:
Choose Simple Toys
A large number of educationists and psychologists believe that learning through play can be achieved best when a child’s imagination is allowed to flourish. Many educational and non-educational toys today do most of the work for children in “in-built” form. Therefore, the first suggestion for parents in toy selection is to keep it simple. Select toys in most basic form like blocks, shapes, dolls or stuff toys that do not sing or talk, cars and bridges, board games etc. Toys should be treated as stimulating devices for social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of children instead of pacifiers or distractions.
Keep Electronic Toys and Video Games Limited
We have often discussed about negative effects of excessive video games on children and how it affects their cognitive development. When it comes to toy selection, psychologists recommend keeping electronic gadgets and games out of the list as much as possible. Today electronic toys have even taken over our physical activity toys like hover boards instead of skateboards, electronic cycles and scooters instead of real ones and online board games instead of real life interaction. Try to avoid such gadgets as much as possible. Research shows that such toys and games affects hearing, cognitive and speech development and allows gaining excess weight.
The Best toy for your child is still “You”
Children learn from people in a way they don’t learn from machines. While parents can provide their child with all the healthy toys to play with and grow independently, no one can underestimate significance of parents themselves. Toys act as a tool for kids to develop their senses, skills and abilities. Parents in themselves, are a nurturing body for the child who teaches them how to play with toys, how to use tools, and how to interact. It is their attention, love and praise which eventually makes use of toys useful in child development and building of self-esteem.
Given the depth of research available on toys, they seem to be a central factor in child’s life. However, they are still only an opportunity to play, explore, interact socially, and find interests and solitary attention. These motives can also be achieved with simple household objects or chores, family activities and small projects. Therefore, parents should understand the purpose of toys before buying them so they can find their alternatives as well.