Toys are the tools of children's play and they influence that play. Toys of value enhance children's natural ability to engage in imaginative, meaningful play by allowing them to try out their own ideas and solve their own problems. Many toys are highly structured and often linked to popular media images and programs. These toys channel children into imitative play, robbing them of opportunities to use their own imaginations, creativity, and problem solving skills.
Parents are constantly faced with decisions about what toys to buy and what toys to avoid. High-powered marketing and the influence of popular culture interfere with thoughtful decision-making at the toy store. Here are some suggestions about choosing the best toys for young children.
Toys that enhance play value...
Toys with limited play value...
Choose toys that promote...
Dramatic play. Helps children work out ideas about their experiences, learn new skills, and gain a sense of mastery. Examples: blocks; toy vehicles; dress-up clothes; small stuffed and plastic animals; dolls; puppets; props to recreate real life; materials for creating small worlds like doll houses and castles.
Manipulative play with small play objects. Develops small muscle control and eye-hand coordination. Teaches about relationships between objects, science. Examples: construction sets and toys with interlocking pieces like Legos and Lincoln Logs; puzzles; pegboards, miniature models, parquetry blocks.
Creative arts. Encourages self-expression and the use of symbols, a vital skill for problem solving and literacy. Develops fine motor skills. Examples: paints; assortment of blank paper crayons and markers; scissors; glue; recycled materials; stamps; clay; weaving kits.
Physical play. Promotes healthy body awareness and coordination and helps let off steam. Opportunities for social interaction. Examples: bikes, scooters and other wheeled toys; balls; bats; jump ropes; space trolleys; pogo sticks; giant chalk; swing sets; climbing structures; play tunnels.
Game playing. Teaches about taking turns, planning strategy, sequencing, rules, and cooperation. Examples: board games like checkers and chess; card games; jacks.
Source: TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment)