The US toy industry has grown immensely over the years because of the high demand for learning toys. Learning toys are ubiquitous in schools and homes because of the assumption that they boost children’s cognitive development. The existing literature reveals a divisive stance on this presumption. The majority of scholars have inferred that toys help children to discover themselves and enhance their learning aptitude. Conversely, some researchers have alluded that learning toys obstruct a child’s learning process. Motivated by the existing conflicting scholarly positions, this study investigates how the toy design helps to develop and improve the education of children between the age of 4 and 9.
The sample used for this study includes 220 preschool students from 10 preparatory schools based in Chicago, Vermont, Illinois, California, Florida, and Texas. The toys used in the study came from five leading companies in the toy industry. The companies included LEGO, Melissa & Doug, MEGA Bloks, LeapFrog, and Jakks Pacific. The participants were divided in two groups. The first group was further subdivided into two sub-groups of 4 to 6-year-olds and 7-9 year-olds. The first group was given learning toys during class lessons as advised by the manufacturers. The second group was only given plastic letters. The second group was to act as a control experiment.
After two weeks, the children were taken through an oral test to determine their progress. The children from the first group that studied using the toys had a better insight of various lessons compared to the children with plastic letters. Cases of minimal injuries were also recorded among the children between the age of 4 and 6 who used a particular design of toys. The results affirmed the popular hypothesis that learning toys directly enhance child development and cognition. However, the results also revealed specific toys that could help children of a given age and gender to learn. Furthermore, there is a need to ensure that the toy designs are safe for the children.
The ultimate intention of education is to train a learner to become inventive. However, teaching children in the elementary schools can prove a daunting responsibility. Consequently, teachers and parents are teaching infants using educative toys because of the prevailing belief that the toys boost kids’ learning capacity. The concept has led to increased demand of toy products from companies, particularly in the US. Indeed, an infant’s cognitive development entails the propensity to evaluate information and/or comprehend how the world operates. Toys are perceived to offer a chance for children to engage their thinking capacity, hence making learning more efficient.
Literature seems to offer a divisive stance on the necessity of toys on child development and education. While many researchers believe that educative toys boost cognitive development, others are ardent that they obstruct the learning process. Motivated by the conflicting ideologies, the following study is a contribution to the already expanding literature on learning toys. The purpose of the study is to affirm the hypothesis that educative toys enhance child development and education. Furthermore, it shows that toys should be given to children according to their age and grade while ensuring their safety.
Traditionally, teaching entailed a didactic technique where learners could sit and listen to the tutor as he or she imparted knowledge. However, modern studies have asserted that such passive learning environments are ineffective. Satterlee, Cormons, and Cormons recommend an active learning, particularly in elementary schools (20). Active education enables the learner to use multiple senses to act upon a given problem (Guyton 52). One popular way of applying this modern technique is through educative toys. Academicians assert that children’s cognitive development is enhanced by playing since it (play) helps them to internalize new concepts. Toys are one of the ways of motivating and prolonging play among youngsters (Harrison 44).
Apart from helping children to play, the additional role played by toys has formed the basis of a number of studies. However, most studies have focused on the how children play with their peers, family members, and teachers. This situation is surprising because about 90 percent of elementary students in the US interact with toys (Wilson 45). For researchers who have focused on the impact of toys to children’s learning process, the results have been conflicting. Some argue that educative toys are essential in teaching children while others believe that they cause destruction to infants in the classroom (Wilson 45).
Moreover, the absence comprehensive study on the role of toys child development has led companies in the toy industry to produce toys that are of little significance to children. According to Louis, the US toy industry is the largest producer of toys in the world, hosting some of wealthiest toy companies (23). It manufactures about 40 percent of toys that are demanded by global consumers. Companies such as LEGO and Melissa & Doug continue to export huge volumes of toys to consumers across the world (Moomaw 492). However, toys are important. Companies can only continue to produce useful toys if there is exhaustive knowledge on the type of toys that children of various age grades require (Kabadayı 44).
Unfortunately, Macsai observes that the toy industry lacks information that can help them to produce toys that fit various age grades and learning processes (38). Furthermore, according to Klemenović, some of the toys cause injuries to children because of lack proper precautions (181). Hence, there is the need for studies to address the existing gaps with respect to early childhood education.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of the study is to affirm the hypothesis that educative toys enhance child development and education. It also seeks to discover whether children should use toys according to their age grade. Moreover, it explains the safety measures that companies should consider when designing learning toys.
The study targets children between the ages 4 and 9. Most of the children of this age are still in the elementary school striving to understand new ideas that they can apply in their world. They are also the highest consumers of toys. Thus, they are likely to disclose how using toys for educational purposes can enhance their cognition development.
The sample used for the study comprised 220 elementary students between the age of 4 and 9. The children were enrolled in 10 preparatory schools located in Chicago, Vermont, Illinois, California, Florida, and Texas. The schools were selected randomly to reduce any chances of biasness. The respective administrations were informed about the study a week prior to its commencement to offer them adequate time to train the instructors on how to use the toys for teaching. Five prominent companies in the toy industry provided the toys used for the study. The companies included LEGO, Melissa & Doug, MEGA Bloks, LeapFrog, and Jakks Pacific. Being the leaders in the industry, they were a suitable sample to evaluate the standard of relevance and safety of the toys supplied to children.
The children were divided in two major groups, namely Group A and Group B, which had 120 and 100 students respectively. Group A was further subdivided in two categories: GA1 and GA2. GA1 kids were given toys according to their age grade. For instance, children between the age of 4 and 6 were given toys such as soap bubbles and accessories, drums, dolls, trains with tracks, water guns, and coloring books while those between the age of 7 and 9 had construction toys, modeling clay, mechanical sets, as well as magic tricks. GA1 kids were given toys without considering their grade. The infants were simply told to pick the toys they desired. Group B kids were given plastic letters. They continued to learn through the normal didactic system. The program lasted for two weeks. Later, oral examination was conducted to determine how the children had progressed in their studies.
Results and Analysis
Group A had grasped several ideas within the two weeks. It performed impressively during the oral examination. The average score for the children in Group A was 84% while Group B had 73%. Notably, GA1 had a better performance than GA2. It was observable that children from the Group B merely memorized the ideas their teachers had shared with them. Unlike Group A, they were poor at solving problems that involved new challenges that differed from what they had learned in class. The results implied that a passive learning environment only created a situation where the children could memorize the knowledge shared by the teacher. They could barely use their intellect.
As expected, the performance of the children was influenced by the toys they were using. Children who had been offered toys according to the age performed better than those who had been instructed to pick the toys they desired. The teachers realized the need to consider the primary tenets of child development and the essence of picking toys to satisfy the exclusive interests of the learners. The impact of educative toys can be boosted by ensuring that they are more engaging. It was noticeable that the children development entailed a broad realm, which comprises the dialect, emotions, interaction, and cognition. Some toys are more effective in a given realm than others. Therefore, there is a need to use specific toys for a given age.
Furthermore, mild injuries of choking and falling were recorded among the children in GA2. The infants fell several times, as they were moving around the classrooms since their bodies are not completely stable. Moreover, they could barely play without inserting them in their mouths. Consequently, toys that could be divided into small pieces choked the children as they tried to swallow them. Therefore, it was apparent that manufacturers have to take precaution to ensure that the educative toys are safe.
The experiment carried out over a period of two weeks exhibits that toys are influential in the erudition process of a child between the age of 4 and 9 years. It reveals that different toys influence children in different ways depending on the age of the children, their preferences, and the type of toys. Pupils who are taught using toys perform better than those who are taught using plastic letters. Toys suitable for the younger age bracket of between 4 to 6 years may not be of much use to older children of between 7 and 9 years. Toys recommended for children between the age of 4 and 6 years include drawing and coloring books, water guns, sports toys, remote controlled vehicles, and piece puzzles among others because the most important developments that take place at that age include articulation and socialization with age mates (Klemenović 187).
Playing with toys and other actions that foster the development of a child’s social skills should be encouraged because they boost cognitive and motor abilities. From the age of 7 to 9 years, children go on to develop cognitive skills such as awareness, concentration span, linguistic skills, rational reasoning, and problem solving. Developments in physical skills enhance strength, coordination, and endurance. Their interests are drawn towards toys and other activities that encourage their expression and inventiveness (Smirnova 36).
Toys suitable for children in this age include arts and crafts, skipping ropes, card games, clay, and electronic games among others. The study suggests that toys enhance the memory of a child during learning processes. Toys provide a more wholesome learning experience because they change the process of learning from that of memorizing to internalizing because they are more involving. Playing with toys involves discerning, learning, solving problems, interaction with other children, and imagination. The processes aid in the development of children physically, psychologically, and socially. The interaction that takes place during the play develops the social skills of the young children (Guyton 56).
The ability to resolve disputes among young playmates sets a foundation for learning how to solve problems as children grow up. Academically, toys that are made as illustrations of things or concepts to be studied play an important role in visualization, which increases understanding and remembrance. Another important finding is that some brands of toys cause higher counts of injuries as compared to others. Such incidents are mostly reported among the younger group of children from 4 to 6 years. The situation accentuates the need for manufacturing toys that are safe for all ages of children to play and use for learning.
Comparison against Literature
Previous researches have mainly been focused on the impact of families, peers, tutors, and different environments on the interactions that take place during play. These research areas may be important. However, this research is more detailed because it narrows down to the toys used during play (Smirnova 35). Some studies have it that toys distract children during learning. Younger children have a lower attention span and that they can be easily distracted.
However, this study proves that toys improve the concentration span and learning of a child. If the appropriate toys are in line with the lesson being taught, then a child is more likely to understand, rather than be distracted. Distraction is more likely to occur if the toy given to the child is not connected to the lesson. Additionally, while many studies focus on toys as items of play only, this study focuses on the impact of toys on the process of learning among children (Shabazian and Li 60).
The control experiment conducted was only done over a period of two weeks. The results retrieved from it were short term. No findings in the research can support long-term conclusions. It means that the permanence of the impact of using toys during learning cannot be determined using the findings of this research. Some of the schools were reluctant to change their mode of teaching by substituting it with the new mode of using toys. Besides, lack of cooperation from the teaching staff made the process of tracking the progress much more tedious than anticipated. The study did not take into consideration the difference in impact based on gender. Different toys appeal to the two genders. The process of distributing the toys was not based on the gender of children. For this reason, the findings were not collected on how different toys influence the two genders during the learning process.
From the research carried out, it is apparent that toys are instrumental in the learning and development of young children. They enhance understanding and cognizance. Therefore, it is advisable that the use of toys be incorporated into the children’s programs at school, not only during recess but also in the course of lessons (Moomaw 492). It is also important that every age group be provided with toys that are appropriate for it. The reason behind this recommendation is that every kind of toy helps a child in developing different skills. Skills that ought to be developed at the age of four differ from those that should be developed at the age of eight (Guyton 54).
According to Harrison, safety measures must be taken during play (45). Children are bound to fall or put materials in their mouth as they learn to control their bodies and learn new ideas. Hence, it is important for safe toys to be provided to children to minimize the risk of injury. They should be properly made without piercing parts. Besides being easy to clean, they should be painted with nontoxic and lead-free paint. Unlike adults, children’s organs cannot bear toxic substances. Thus, even a small volume of arsenic substances can be fatal. Producers should avoid using toxic substances. They should mention the elements they use in manufacturing the products to help parents and teachers to determine products that are safe for their children (Louis 54).
According to Sanders, Stolz, and Chacon-Baker, teachers should be attentive to verify toys that are most effective among their pupils (29). They should also give the children an opportunity to express creativity through toys, instead of having a structured use for each toy. Companies that produce toys should cooperate with schools to manufacture toys that the children can relate to, depending on the age and culture of the group of children (Louis 59).
Such precision will further augment learning because it will be easier for children to understand what they are being taught. More researchers should focus on the impact of toys on learning and development among children. Learning and development form an area that has not been properly exploited. Related studies should also focus on the difference caused by gender in relation to the use of toys during learning (Macsai 38).
The study has affirmed the notion that toys help in child development and education. This paper is a contribution to the ever-expanding literature on the integration of toys and play into the education system as part of promoting active learning. This study faced a number of limitations possibly because of inadequate resources and time. Future researchers should seal such loopholes even as they examine the impact of toys on elementary learners and their development.
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