How Toys Affect Child Development

Here at Kids’ Care Club, we believe that early years are learning years. Young children are both quick learners and highly impressionable, with a heightened ability to take in information. That’s why we recognize the importance of the work that early childhood educators do every day in our schools that has a significant, lasting impact on children’s cognitive and social development. 

Recognizing the potential of this sensitive learning period, and integrating developmentally appropriate activities into their daily routine is sure to maximize the development of children’s cognitive skills. One of the most important ways we make learning fun to foster your child’s development every day is through play. 

How Toys Affect Child Development 

How do toys affect cognitive development?Research shows that 90% of this preschool-aged play in the US involves toys! When your child is playing with toys, they’re developing new ideas, modeling what they’ve seen by adults, and being challenged and stimulating their cognitive and language development.

Toys impact children’s behavior in many different ways, but primarily influence and guide children’s thinking, how they interact socially with their peers, and how toys impact their creativity.

Let’s learn how toys affect child development. 

preschooler with alphabet game

1. Toys help Children Think 

Cognitive development is the increased ability to process information to understand how the world works. For children, environments that push them to think, explore, and figure things out bolster the most amount of cognitive development.  Toys are the perfect mediators to encourage these different thinking skills. 

We see children exploring the world through different means in our classrooms every day. We see children in the toy kitchen exploring different roles, cars being pushed into a stack of blocks to explore cause and effect, puzzles challenging one’s problem-solving abilities, and engaging in symbolic play through fun ways like using a banana to talk into the phone. All of these activities satiate and encourage your child’s curiosity to discover how the world works.  

2. Toys Promote Positive Socialization 

Toys encourage socialization. Most often, toys require more than one person to play with, urging that children interact with one another. This teaches children to take turns, how to work as a team, handle the losses and play fair with one another.

Pretend games, such as playing superheroes, keep young minds active and encourage them to imagine themselves in various scenarios in a unique role. The interaction and presence of other children help to carry out their vision of a pretend world, where they communicate and share toys to carry it out successfully.

Other types of play, such as building blocks, require teamwork and children having to verbalize what they have or intend to build. Your child will learn how they can be much more efficient and get a task done when working together! We see this theme across nature exploration, art projects, and any other activities that encourage collaboration. 

To the same extent that toys promote positive socialization with one another, it’s essential to recognize the power of social conditioning that toys can have on your child. That’s why we provide toys that are both culturally and gender diverse and encourage families to do the same. 

Toys that are gender-typed, such as red race cars and pink kitchen sets, can exclude children from important learning experiences. For example, research shows that construction toys and toy vehicles elicit some of the highest quality play across gender, but excluding girls from playing from this can do harm and reinforce stereotypes that exclude girls. Instead, opt for more neutral, less gendered toys. Examples are blocks, musical instruments, play dough, and puzzles. By using a range of toys, you can see both neutral and gender-specific toys give your child a play experience that is well-rounded. 

3. Toys Spark Creativity

Toys allow your child to get creative and encourage their imagination. Researchers find that children are more willing to improvise and create when given toys. We encourage the use of any toys you may have access to, but open-ended toys allow children to create their own world. This is also also known as parallel play.

In fact, NAEYC shows that for toys, the more simple they are, the better. The highest-scoring toys are the classics, the ones that have stood the test of time and may be those that you have played with as a child. These include hardwood blocks, wooden vehicles, road signs, wooden construction toys, and more!  

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, or buy the latest trending toys, to foster creativity in your little one. Since the classics are open-ended and not restricted to a specific use, unlike toys that may represent specific movie or TV characters, your child’s creativity isn’t confined. Colored blocks, which date back to the 1800s, are still used in the classroom today for all types of imaginative buildings, such as construction sites, hospitals, dollhouses, villages, and more. 

Integrating character-specific toys isn’t a bad idea, either, and has its time and place. While two kids playing with wooden blocks may use a much wider amount of creativity and a range of possibilities to have fun, the dialogue may not be as sophisticated. When given specific characters, such as Buzz Lightyear and Woody, the children may engage in a dialogue nearly straight from the show. Not much creativity would be required, but it’s good practice in scripted and structured conversations. 

preschooler playing with blocks with parent

Toys at Kids’ Care Club 

Let’s learn more about what toys can be found in our different classrooms so you can draw some inspiration to extend the learning to home. 

Infant (1 to 12 Months)

Infants love toys that can be reached for, held, shaken, and made noise with. After all, sensory play with toys helps stimulate your child’s senses. As your child grows and develops hand-eye coordination, you can start introducing toys that encourage more interaction. As they become more engaged, incorporate toys that encourage problem-solving or cause and effect. As they learn how toys work with your guidance and through trial and error, they’ll slowly build confidence. Plus, they’ll be fun and promote movement! You can start playing with these toys as early as one month. 

  • Baby Mobile 
  • Pacifiers/Soothers
  • Unoccupied play, such as smiling at your infant, sticking out your tongue, and making other expressions for your infant to study, learn and imitate.  
  • Small portable toys with lights/sounds 
  • Stackers or Blocks 
  • Crawl around learning centers
  • Light up dance mats with sounds 
  • Rattlers 

Toddler (12 – 24 months) 

After the one-year mark, your child’s mobility has improved drastically. Now is the perfect time to introduce toys that teach balance and coordination, which will increase your child’s curiosity with their newfound mobility. 

Themed toys are good toy choices to help you introduce your child between the ages of 12-18 months, as they’ll help your child’s recognition skills. These are toys like animals, construction, dolls, action figures, and more. For example, puzzles can teach your child what noises animals make or what they look like. 

Here are our recommendations for toys for your toddler. 

  • Push Cars 
  • Stride and ride toys 
  • Walkers 
  • Themed toys, such as puzzles. 
  • Themed books 

Two-Year-Old (2+ years) 

Your two-year-old has found a new sense of independence alongside their increased ability in what they can do. This makes playing with toys all the more fun! They’re learning that they’re an individual with their own thoughts and feelings, as well as discovering that others have their own thoughts and feelings too. 

Children that engage in pretend play are given a chance to take on these various different roles of life, such as playing house. Incorporating roleplaying items can help encourage this pretend play. Additionally, we recommend incorporating toys that help them problem-solve, such as puzzles. While two-year-olds can do much more, please remember that safety is first and all choking hazards should be considered. Below are some of our top recommendations. 

  • Toy Kitchen Items 
  • Dolls and Strollers 
  • Wooden Blocks 
  • Build Toys 
  • Puzzles

preschooler playing with puzzle

Preschool (3-4 Years Old)

Starting at age three, the toy game changes once again. At home, your child may start having specific interests and knowing what they want. We still recommend providing simple toys that foster lots of imaginative play, inspire storytelling, and encourage creative engagement. In our classrooms, you will see toys and costumes that are conducive to group interaction to nurture their social skills, such as role-playing and board games.

At Kids’ Care Club, children will have access to a larger playground that gives them movement toys, such as trikes, that reward their growing physical confidence. Below are some of our recommendations. 

  • Introduce toys that encourage physical play 
  • Start to use a tricycle, ensuring safety principles 
  • Basketball Hoops 
  • T-Ball Stands 
  • Bowling Sets 
  • Drawing Easel 
  • See and Say games or books 
  • Magnetic building blocks 
  • Legos 
  • Counting toys 

Pre-K/TK (4 Years – School Age)

Learning is at the center of the lives of preschool-aged children in our classes. As they get older and closer to Kindergarten, they’ll be exploring new subjects and ideas in the classroom for the first time. Incorporating toys and kits that let them engage in project-based activities, like simple science experiments and nature exploration, help them form connections between what they learn in the classroom to what they learn in the world. 

We believe in implementing toys that complement your child’s natural curiosities. Maybe they love to make art, grow plants, play sports, make music, or look at bugs. Themed books and board games are excellent ways to fuel their curiosity, especially when they’re cooperative with their peers in the classroom. We also recommend mixing these alongside sensory play. 

  • Board Games 
  • Puzzles 
  • Garden Kits 
  • Card Games 
  • Jump Rope 
  • Ball Games 
  • Hopscotch 
  • Jigsaw Puzzles 
  • Wood Work 
  • Simple Sewing

If you’re curious and want to learn more about how Kids’ Care Club is using toys in each of our classrooms to support your child’s development, we encourage you to contact us to schedule a tour today. 

Additional Resources

Find more information and tools on our.  Parent Resources page »

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