Recognizing Child Development in Toys
Many stages of child development allow toys to play an important role. Large
assortments of children’s toys are available on the market today. Play is not
always just for fun. From infancy to adolescence, the toys and things that
children come into contact with aid in developing cognitive, social, and other
skills. Skills build on one another throughout life. Getting a child to feel
comfortable in social situations is a necessary development that needs to occur.
Parental involvement, siblings sharing playtime, and other “play dates” are
opportunities to help a child grow.
This project was to take an in-depth look at various toys that aide child development.
Expectation for this project included finding mostly toys that were easy to identify as
learning tools for development.
I visited two toy stores, one online and the other was the local Wal-Mart. Prior to my visit
I established a small chart to help outline my findings. (see below) At each store I
collected 15 items and listed their various characteristics.
*I chose Wal-Mart for several reasons. First, was that not all towns have a Toys Я’ Us.
Second, a lot of consumers do their toy shopping while out for groceries; therefore, it is
very likely Wal-Mart stores are an excellent source for busy parents to purchase toys.
Thirdly, price is a big selling point and generally Wal-Mart is cheaper than their
(*Be Aware also that Wal-Mart.com does not carry everything that can be found in the store itself).
Background: Child development is a field of research dedicated to finding ways that individuals
develop their abilities or skills. These skills including cognitive, social, and motor; among others.
Some theorists have contributed their research and theories to helping people understand and nurture
development within children.
Sigmund Freud’s 5 stage psychosexual model of child development includes the oral, anal,
phallic, latency, and genital. Each stage presented a different obsession. Children’s obsessions
with their pleasure center can be aided in their use of some toys. (Santrock, 2006).
Erikson’s eight stage model of development includes childhood, adolescence, and onward, but
his primary focus is the first of five stages which occur prior to puberty. Erikson’s’ model
comes into developmental theory at the stage where a child’s toys are their sense of security,
industry, or identity.
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory is one that places special importance on the development of
memory, attention, and reasoning skills. Parents taking an active role in play is one way a
advancing a child cognitive development.
Information Processing Theory describes an individual’s ability to manipulate, monitor, and
strategize information. A child is best able to utilize these skills later in early adolescence.
Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory stressed two factors of development. The
assimilation of new information, and accommodation of existing material. His theory states
that development is a 4 stage model based on moving from newborn reflexive behavior to one
of logic and reasoning at age 11 onward. This may best be seen when attributing the time that
has passed in the way child play is conducted. In a rapid changing society, technology is
moving at a fast pace. The assimilation of new ways to play, new ways to think, and new
technology are things that help children grow and adapt or accommodate to the society around
them. Just think what was you first videogame machine? How many of different machines
have we seen since then? How many are to come?
Cognitive Processing Theory says that thought, intelligence, and language can all be attributed
to a child’s first development and their roles in developing these skills. (Santrock, 2006).
Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory highlights the fact that children often model behavior they
observe, most likely their parents. Playing with children and being aware that everything one
does as a parent affects a child’s development.
Children think that play is exactly that, a time to play and have fun. However, time spent in
play is a learning experience that children do not recognize as learning. The “Zone of
Optimized Motivation” (ZOOM) refers to the state of immersion and concentration with-in the
space where non-formal learning occurs. (Petersson & Brooks, 2006).
Name Cost Ages Pro/Con Benefits
1. See N’ Say Flip N’ Make Music 10.00 2-5 yrs Learn cognitive things such as music and language. Physical
finger dexterity required to pull the handle. Batteries req.
2. Fisher Price Rainforest Motion and 45.00 0-1 yrs Builds cognitive skills, and intelligence. Mobiles are
Music Mobile normally bought to fit the decorum of the nursery. Batteries
3. Infantino- Soft Activity Gym 20.00 0-1 yrs Cognitive/Intelligence builder, easy to pack and travel. Safe
play for newborn.
4. V-Smile Pocket Learning System 80.00 4-8 yrs Cognitive learning. Good for travel. Batteries req.
5. Bob the Builder Voice Activated 30.00 3-5 yrs Cognitive skills developing hand/eye coordination. Also
Remote Car physical to chase down car itself. Batteries req.
6. Hooked on Phonics: Math 200.00 6-10 y Aides in further development of cognitive skills like math.
7. Fisher Price Rock-A-Stack 5.00 6m-3 Plastic + Cognitive- Symbolic concept building Plastic is better than
yrs wood if they child is development physical throwing skills.
8. Care Bite Pacifinder 3.00 0-9 Oral fixation stage. Aides parents in helping to keep the
mth pacifiers safe and more sanitary.
9. Safety 1st Cradle N’ Comfort Tub 30.00 0-2 yrs Safety and Security during bath time. Allows for children o
develop security and parent/child bath time is a time to bond.
10. Fun Keys Teether 5.00 3m-18 Oral Fixation stage. Plastic keys are more sanitary than
11. Bilingual PC Schoolhouse 30.00 3-10 English/Spanish. Builds language skills. Easy to travel.
yrs Batteries req.
12. Bob the Builder Interactive Power 25.00 2-4 yrs Social skills building. Predominantly boy toy. Preparation
tools for later life skills.
13. Jay Jay the Jet Plane: Special 20.00 18m- *hard Social skills: reading
Delivery Interactive Storybook 3 yrs cover
14. (A) Shaped 2- Sided Easel 40.00 3-12 *lost Creative skill building including reading and writing.
15. Barbie Doll and Kitchen Set 20.00 3-9 yrs *small Social skills building. Predominantly boy toy. Preparation
parts for later life skills.
Name Cost Ages Pro/Con Benefits
1. Mini Activity 5-in-1 Cube 14.00 2+ Cognitive skills like counting, colors, and physical dexterity.
2. Little Tikes Baby Tapa Tune Piano 10.00 6m- 3 Teaches music and Dexterity?
3. Simon Says Sit n’ Spin 20.00 18m- Assemble required (parental involvement). Emphasis on
5.5 yrs cognitive and physical skills.
4. Kite (misc.) 3.00 + 3+ *ease Cognitive skill building: physics and gravity. Parents have to
torn/loss model the way to fly a kite.
5. Little Tikes Cozy Coupe 50.00 18m- Physical Skills. Parents can be involved.
6. Matchbox Cars 5.00 3+ Physical skills and chance for social interaction/play.
7. Lullaby Glowworm 10.00 0+ Sense of security and helps build language from music.
8. Bratz High Fashion Makeover Doll 21.00 6+ Social learning: girls prepare for adolescence
9. Action Figures (misc.) 6.00- 4+ Social play. Geared toward boys, based on TV or movies.
10. Chess/Checkers 4.00 8+ Social: 2 players. Info processing strategy building.
11. Model Planes 10.00- 8+ *18 to Develops social skills: hobbies. Beware high choking hazard,
12.00 buy glue and paint/glue fumes.
12. Disney DVD Scene- It 28.00 6+ *DVD Social: Excellent way to involve other children/parents. New
player technology in children’s toys.
13. Basketball Net with Foam Ball 4.00 4+ *easily Physical/Social Skills. Good for parents to get involved.
14. Garden Center Tools 5.00 2+ *plastic/ Social skills: preparation for future life skills. Beware sharp
quality - edges.
15. Doodle Bear 10.00 3+ *wash Creative skills
My hypothesis proved somewhat false. Although some toys listed their benefits, others
did not. Some toys stood out distinctively in my mind that they fit some developmental
stage. Parents are not always informed of a toys benefit, but often buy toys they think will
fit their children, be those toys from a source of media the children enjoy, or a copycat of
the toys they themselves enjoyed growing up.
Cognitive Social Other
Along with a variety of toys comes a variety of skills that can be developed, imaginations that
can grow, and abundant opportunities for social interactions.
Although a vast amount of toys are aimed at cognitive development, other toys are suitable to
develop skills such as finger dexterity, motor skills, and even others fulfill the needs for
security or identity.
Some toys are better at involving others in child play. Toys that require assembly or batteries
are a wonderful opportunity to show that child that parents care about their happiness and get
them involved even for short time. Those parents that buy those kinds of toys are presumably
those that want to play active roles in their child’s development. Moreover, children are no
longer separated from one another by farmland. Toys today are for individual use only.
Today’s toys have grown to encompass 2 or more players. Bringing children together to learn
and play builds the social/cultural background a child will be adjusting to over the future.
Most toys are available at affordable costs. Not all children will benefit from the high-end or
costly items, but by giving a child any opportunity to learn will set them on a quest for more
knowledge. Also virtual reality, video games, and games that plug into a television are
revolutionary for those parents that did not grow up with that sort of play. It will be exciting to
see what will become of those toys in the coming years.
eToys Direct, Inc. (2007). Retrieved January 30, 2007, from http://www.eToys.com.
Krapp, K. & Wilson, J. (2006, February 1). Toys. Encyclopedia of Children's Health.
Retrieved February 1, 2007, from http://health.enotes.com/childrens-health-
Peterson, E., & Brooks, A. (2006). Virtual and Physical Toys: Open-Ended Features for
Non-Formal Learning. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9, (2) 196-198.
Santrock, J. W. (2006). Life Span Development (10th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and The American Toy Institute. (n.d.). One
Of The Most Important Things A Child Can Do Is Play. Retrieved February 1, 2007,
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