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Toys and Their Impact on Child Development

author image Becky Swain
Becky Swain's first publication appeared in the "Journal of Personality Assessment" in 1984. Her articles have also appeared on various websites. She is an adjunct college instructor, licensed school psychologist and educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science in clinical psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational psychology, both from Mississippi State University.
Toys and Their Impact on Child Development
A toy aids development when it requires the use of your child's physical or mental resources. Photo Credit Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Getty Images

When parents stroll down the toy aisle, they may feel unprepared by the plethora of choices available. Whether you plan to purchase a toy for your infant or for an older child, you can easily feel overwhelmed as you explore the shelves for a toy that nurtures childhood development, and elicits your child’s interest. Consider some of the factors related to how toys impact your child’s development before your next shopping excursion for toys.

Let's Play

Toys create opportunities for your child to acquire, practice and gradually perfect new skills, reports the Zero to Three childhood development website. Young children achieve milestones across the cognitive, fine motor, gross motor, language and social-emotional domains, and different toys encourage development in one or more of these developmental areas. For example, puzzles promote your child’s problem-solving ability within the cognitive domain, as well as her fine motor skills. Dress-up clothes nurture your child’s cognitive and social-emotional domains, by permitting her to create new play agendas and imagine the feelings of other individuals.

Mix It Up

As your child demonstrates preferences for specific types of toys and play responses, provide her with a variety of toys that encourage a wide range of play opportunities, recommends the National Association for the Education of Young Children. For example, vary activity toys such as balls, tricycles and wagons that promote gross motor skills, with creativity toys like crayons, paints and cardboard boxes. Parents encourage their child to venture outside of the child’s play comfort zone when they initiate or join in their child’s play.

Lights, Buzzers and Bells

Don’t be fooled by brightly colored electronic toys that demonstrate flashing lights, music or an array of sound effects. Although the manufacturers of these toys may claim that the toys enhance your child’s development, electronic toys serve more as a source of entertainment, according to Zero to Three. The more functions the toy performs, the less work your child performs in order to operate the toy. Your child learns through exercising her mental and physical resources, and practicing what’s been learned.

Less Fuss Can Be Fun

Let safety guide you to provide toys that match your child’s abilities and promote her development, at little cost, and minimal fuss. The cardboard boxes you plan to discard, and the plastic bowls and lids that probably clutter your cabinet, can create happy learning opportunities for your little one. Each child develops differently, so consider your child’s individual levels when selecting items for play. Join in the fun by modeling possible uses for items and encouraging your child’s play themes.

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