Here are some areas in which toys can play a crucial role in a child’s development:
Cognitive: Toys offer an opportunity to increase one’s concentration skills, promote problem-solving strategies, encourage imagination/abstract thinking and develop language skills. Items like board games and puzzles can also help increase dialogue and improve math skills.
Social: Toys help teach children about the society we live in and facilitate social skills. Playing with peers or adults helps to promote respect, cooperation, negotiation and sharing. Toys also allow children to actively explore many other important societal rules in a natural and safe environment.
Emotional: Toys offer children an opportunity to openly express themselves. Through playing with toys, children may gain the ability to identify, navigate, understand, process and work through feelings. By using pretend play with toys or creating a fantasy world, children are provided with an outlet to act out feelings and emotions. As a result, there is potential to increase emotional stability.
Motor: Beginning at birth, toys are used as motivators for children to use muscles and develop fine and gross motor skills. Toys assist children in discovering balance and coordination. Dolls and figures offer an opportunity to increase fine motor skills, by engaging in dressing, undressing and pretend feedings. Children also enhance their sense of touch and sight, which increase fine motor skills.
Tricycles, walkers, cars and playground equipment increase gross motor skills. These toys work on strengthening arms and legs. As a bonus, these activities give children further motivation to begin exercising at an early age, potentially avoiding the risks of childhood obesity.
In addition, a single toy can help children develop in a variety of areas.
For example, crayons and plastic blocks can enhance a child’s well-being in three areas at the same time.
Cognitive-Providing a creative outlet
Emotional- Insuring a visual outlet
Motor- Enhancing hand-eye coordination
Cognitive- Promoting mathematical concepts
Social- Providing an opportunity to build and create with others
Motor-Using fine and gross motor muscles to build
When your child is “just playing” with toys, please understand that they are doing so much more -- they are learning and developing all at once!
Since it’s clear that toys may be crucial for a child’s development, it’s important that children play with toys beginning at an early age. Unfortunately, not all children have easy access to toys; those that do often outgrow toys quickly. Instead of tossing out perfectly good plastic toys that could be valuable to other children, consider sorting through old toys with your child. Explain the importance of giving back to others by recycling and donating toys. They can go a long way in helping another child maximize his or her development.