Toys provides our children with loads of fun and helps develop their imaginations. It is an outlet that frees their mind. But there is more than just mere play things. Toys deliver a few more surprises than one would expect.
When children play with toys, early in life, they discover how the world works. Six month-old children and younger learn that things fall downwards, others bounce upwards, and some make noise when they do something to them, among other things. In the following two years, their cognitive thinking skills begin to ameliorate, allowing for association play or, rather, pretend play. During this time, they are developing and learning social behaviors — both, good and bad ones. According to Etienne Benson, contributor for the Association for Psychological Science, when a boy learns not to play with toys that are for girls only or that violent play is “off limits”, he learns something about the society he lives in.
In contrast, some experts suggest that our behavior is hardwired in our genes. There is a study that monitored young monkeys playing with children toys. Researcher found that the female monkeys were partial to playing with dolls and the males, trucks. They attribute this behavior preference to hormonal differences between boys and girls.
This has caught the attention of toy-makers, who have employed toy marketers and designers to consider this when designing toys. At MIT, there is a Toy Product Design course that focuses on developing toys that benefits children.The course will incorporate lectures regarding development psychology. Benson writes, “Developmental psychology is also part of the curricula at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where the United States’ first toy-design degree program was founded in the late 1980s.”
Children are like empty sponges that are ready to soak up information around them. They learn from watching television or listening to music, but are most susceptible to learning from others. Observational learning involves observing and mimicking the behavior of others, mostly people around them. These people usually consist of parents, family members, guardians, and friends of the family.
As a major influence in a child’s life, take the initiative to guide their play behavior to agree with social norms. You can really make a difference in your child’s development. Kids need rules and structure. Children strengthen their understanding of rules through role play. Kids will play house or play school pretending to be some form of authority and dish out commands and instructions. This role playing reinforces the rules that they have learned and grants them a better understanding of their position in the world.
So get out there and play with them as much as you can. Share you knowledge and your imagination. Explore the world, together.