As we saw in the previous topic, children play happily with many different objects which they find around the house and garden. They use these objects as toys. Nevertheless, toys which are specially made for children will also give them much pleasure and help to increase the variety and interest of their games.
Choose a Toy for a Child
Toys come in many forms. Those which give pleasure will be used. Because they are used, they will give the opportunity to learn. Toys sold as ‘educational toys’ will only be played with if the child finds them either fun or interesting.
A successful toy is one which a child both likes and uses often. Such a toy:
- is right for the age of the child – the child is old enough to enjoy it, but not too old for the toy to seem babyish. It can be dangerous for younger children to play with toys for older children
- is strong enough for the child to use
- provides more than temporary interest – it may: ◦give scope for the imagination
- give scope for learning new skills
- make the child think
- have special appeal for the child
- is safe to play with – for example, the eyes of soft toys are firmly fixed and cannot be pulled out; there are no sharp edges or points; toy cars and tricycles are stable and will not easily tip over.
Toys are governed by safety regulations. The ‘CE’ symbol on a toy shows that it meets the requirements of the European Union’s Toy Safety Directive and is safe for children to play with.
Toys for Children of All Ages
Many toys are used only during a particular stage of development. However, a few seem to appeal to children of all ages and are used over a long period of childhood. These include bricks, climbing frames, dolls and soft toys, and toys for bath time.
Bricks probably have the longest life of any toy. Building with bricks encourages children to concentrate, be patient, to invent and to be skilful with the hands. When a young child first plays with bricks, he has difficulty in placing one brick on top of another. He has to learn:
- to use the hands and eyes together
- to develop fine control over the muscles which move the fingers
- to concentrate as both time and effort are needed to achieve a satisfactory result
- to persist and keep on practising until the bricks can be placed where they are wanted
As the child gets older, more use is made of the imagination to arrange the bricks in different ways. There are a large number of games in which bricks can be used. For example, bricks can be made into walls, towers, steps, houses, roads, tunnels and patterns. They can keep one child amused or occupy a group of children playing together.
For bricks to be a really useful toy, there need to be enough of them. A few bricks are not much use except to a baby. Older children need many more, probably over 100. Hundreds of bricks require quite a lot of space, both for storage and when they are being played with. Parents must be prepared to have half-finished games left over a large part of the table or floor.
Interlocking bricks like Lego®, Duplo® or Sticklebricks® keep children happily occupied for many hours throughout childhood. Children can start to play with them as soon as they have the skill to lock them together and when they have grown out of the stage of wanting to put small things in the mouth. If a collection of bricks is begun when the child is young, then added to from time to time, it can be made to keep pace with his developing skills and imagination.
This large and expensive toy takes up a great deal of space and, once put up, has to be left in place. The advantages of a climbing frame are that it can be used throughout childhood both for physical play and for many other activities. It can be erected wherever there is enough space, either inside or outside. A climbing frame is particularly useful for children who do not have a large garden or nearby adventure playground in which to play. It gives opportunity for children to use their muscles, gain control over their movements, test their skills and use up energy. A young child using a climbing frame has to decide where to put his hands and feet, how far to climb and how to hold the body to stay in balance. As experience is gained in moving around, the child will become more confident and adventurous. Adding objects to the climbing frame such as a rope, plank, hammock or blanket increases the interest and provides ideas for many imaginative games.
Toys for bath time
Children love playing with water and have fun with toys which float, sponges for squeezing, and containers for scooping up water. One way of getting children to wash themselves all over or to have their hair washed at bath time is a promise to give them time afterwards to play in the water, perhaps bathing a doll or washing its hair. Supervision of children in a bath continues to be needed at all times for safety reasons.
Dolls and soft toys
The favourite doll or teddy or cuddly animal becomes a sort of ‘person’ to whom the child can turn for companionship or comfort. Unlike people, they are always ready for play, do not make demands, can be talked to in confidence and then left alone until wanted again. Sometimes children prefer to share their grief, anger or pleasure with dolly or teddy rather than with people. Many children rely on them for comfort throughout childhood. Dolls come in many shapes and sizes. Some are elaborately dressed and often appeal to grown-ups. However, children usually seem to prefer a simple doll or soft toy as there is more scope for the imagination and less to go wrong.