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Please read these fine articles
written to educate parents on the importance of play and toy selection!
National Toy Council
The value of play
THIS PUBLICATION IS SPONSORED BY FISHER-PRICE
is an essential part of growing up. Through play children hasten their
own development while they learn about the world around them. This
booklet has been produced by the National Toy Council to help you select
the best toys for your child. The guidelines in this booklet are based
on extensive research.
WHY PLAY IS IMPORTANT
Play is the way children learn. Children with access
to a wide range of well-selected toys are more likely to be challenged
and stimulated. Studies find that they reach higher levels of
intellectual development, regardless of their sex, race or social class.
Toys that stimulate mental development are appropriate
for the child
abilities, responsive to the child's
movements, and provide feedback when manipulated. Whether playing
alone or with others, quietly or with enthusiasm, play is the way
children explore their world and create imaginary ones.
LEARNING NEW SKILLS
Even in reaching for a toy your baby develops early
hand/eye co-ordination, strength, balance and agility. Activity centres,
block letters, shape sorters and games will help your child learn many
new skills. Toys and games that are used with playmates encourage
sharing, co-operation and communication. Blocks and models will foster
spatial play, whilst jigsaws, dominoes, puzzles and board games are for
logical play. Balls and push/pull toys are used in physical play, and
verbal play accompanies books and word games. Children use dolls, action
figures, costumes and puppets for imaginary play.
Research shows that through play children learn how
to plan and solve problems. Play encourages them to develop language and
communication skills, and to use imagination and creativity.
Playful children are happier, better adjusted, more
co-operative, and more popular with their peers than those who play
less. Children play longer when a wide variety of toys is available. It
is not necessarily the most expensive toys that provide the greatest
stimulation and enjoyment. It is better to have four or five different
toys than one very expensive one.
AGES AND STAGES OF PLAY
Children differ enormously in their rate of growth
and development, so toys should keep pace with children's changing needs
and ability levels. As a parent, be sensitive to the interests,
abilities and limitations of your children in deciding when they
are ready for their first puzzle,
book, bike or computer game. Here are some guidelines on the types of
toys best suited for different stages of development.
first toys are important in teaching about size, shape, colour and
texture. In one study, the availability of toys in infancy was strongly
related to the child's
IQ at the age of three!
During the first year, an infant will respond to
bright colours and gentle sounds. Musical toys and mobiles are ideal at
this age. Babies find it difficult to co-ordinate their hand and eye at
first so they learn about the shape and feel of objects with their
mouths. As they gain control over their hand movements an activity mat
is great for exploring textures and shapes.
Half the waking hours of a typical 17-month old are
devoted to play, so a variety of toys is essential. They will enjoy toys
that move, like mobiles and rattles. Children begin to enjoy pretend
play so toys that stimulate imagination, such as play sets, toy
vehicles, soft toys and puppets, are also popular. Blocks will challenge
their imagination and dexterity.
An active toddler will need toys for physical play;
toys they can sit on or push and pull. Toys that respond to the child
movements will hold attention, important for reading. Children play for
a longer period of time when there is a greater variety of toys
Pretend play is the child
way of trying out new skills and growing interests. Puppets are a great
way to develop language. As children gain confidence and social skills
they enjoy play with other children. Role playing and fantasy games help
their social and emotional development. Children like realistic toys
that resemble people and everyday objects, such as dolls, action
figures, tool sets and household items. They also like construction
sets, painting, musical toys and cassette players.
Active play on swings, slides, climbing frames and
toy vehicles encourages physical co-ordination and will help them to
progress onto tricycles and bicycles. As they develop logic and are able
to concentrate longer they are ready for games with rules like lotto,
matching games and dominoes. Memory and imagination can be exercised
with electronic toys, board games, and word games.
Social skills are learned and practiced in board
games, table-top games, and traditional games like marbles. Children
experiment with different roles with fashion dolls and action figures.
Crafts and costumes stimulate imagination and creativity.
For play to be of benefit, children should feel
secure and comfortable in their surroundings, with supportive adults
present and a wide assortment of toys to play
Choose toys that are fun for your child to play
with. To be fun they should match the child
maturity and challenge his or her skills. Go for products with lots of
features, activities, bright colours, different textures and sounds.
Children should be encouraged from an early
age to get involved in the selection of their toys.
Play with your child whenever you both feel
it is appropriate. But do not force children to play or push them to
play games that may be too difficult for them.
Always consider safety when buying for a child. Most
of the toys on the British market today are carefully made and safe to
play with. But it is advisable to follow some simple guidelines to
ensure that your child is playing with safe toys.
Go to a reputable shop. Look for retailers who
are members of the Lion Mark Scheme and avoid buying from street
traders and fairgrounds.
Look for the Lion Mark, the British Toy &
Hobby Association's symbol
of safety and quality, which indicates that the toy is manufactured
to British and European toy safety standards.
Beware of second-hand toys - there is no
guarantee that they are safe.
Follow the guidelines given on the toy. A message
such as "not suitable for children under 36 months because of
small parts" should be taken literally. An age guideline,
however, such as "recommended for children aged 3-4" is
discretionary and is designed to help you to decide if the toy will
be fun for your child.
Check for sturdy, well-sewn seams and ensure that
eyes and noses are fastened tightly. Check toys for sharp points and
role playing/fantasy games
The National Toy Council is concerned with child
welfare, particularly where play and use of toys are involved. Its
members include representatives of the Child Accident Prevention Trust,
British Toy and Hobby Association, National Toy Libraries Association,
Institute of Trading Standards Administration, BBC Children's
Television, national press, renowned academics and a toy safety expert.
Compiled with the assistance of Professor Jeffrey
Goldstein BA MS PhD (of the University of Utrecht), member of the
National Toy Council.