9 benefits of playing with toys: Theory to blocks and dolls

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Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

The psychology of toys cites several benefits, including stimulating cognitive development, stimulating creativity and imagination. Active play where the child is absorbed in the game is the best, both physically and mentally.

Below are the 9 benefits of playing with toys.

  1. Stimulate cognitive development
  2. Spark creativity and imagination
  3. Interact and bond with family
  4. Increase physical activity
  5. Improve concentration
  6. Develop motor skills
  7. Promote social and emotional development
  8. Develop problem-solving skills
  9. Help discover interests, hobbies and careers

That play is also of great importance in early education is supported by Piaget's theory that play is an essential tool for children to understand the world and gain new knowledge.

Not every toy offers the same benefits, so it's important to make the right choices. The biggest problem with most toys today is the overuse of plastic and lack of educational value.

9 benefits of playing with toys

From toddler to toddler activity book collection

Educational games and coloring pages for 3 to 6 years

Your toddler and preschooler will love this e-book, along with the accompanying printables. He or she can play with it at every stage of development, together with mom and dad.

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#1 Encourage cognitive development

Cognitive development is the process by which children develop their ability and understanding of the world around them. It covers various aspects such as the ability to process information, develop important skills and stimulate critical thinking.

Toys play an important role in stimulating cognitive development. It offers children the opportunity to learn through play and helps them develop skills such as problem solving, language development and spatial awareness.

A study called “Designing Toys to Support Children's Development” by Page, T., & Thorsteinsson, G. (2017) concluded that the use of toys in childhood influences the development of important skills such as cognition.

Piaget's stages of cognitive development also apply to toys. These stages, including sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational, mark the different phases of cognitive development in children.

#2 Spark creativity and imagination

Creativity and imagination are the ability to generate new and original ideas and come up with unconventional concepts. It emphasizes the ability to tackle challenges in new and valuable ways.

Toys play a crucial role in encouraging creativity and imagination in children. Below are the different ways toys can help with this.

  1. Open-ended play: Toys that allow open-ended play encourage children to use their imagination and creativity to come up with their own scenarios and storylines. These toys provide a blank canvas for children to explore and create their own stories.
  2. Building and Construction Toys: Building blocks, Lego, magnetic tiles and other construction toys promote creativity by allowing children to design and build their own structures, vehicles and inventions. These toys improve spatial awareness, problem-solving skills and encourage children to think critically and imaginatively.
  3. Artsy and craft toys: Toys that incorporate artistry, such as art supplies, clay and craft sets, give children the tools to express their creativity visually. These toys allow children to experiment with colours, shapes and textures, encouraging self-expression and imagination.
  4. Role-play and pretend play: Toys that facilitate role-play and pretend play, such as dolls, action figures and playsets, allow children to create and act out their own stories and scenarios. Through imaginative play, children develop social skills, empathy and problem-solving abilities.
  5. Imagination Playsets: Playsets that represent realistic scenarios, such as kitchens, doctor sets and dollhouses, provide children with props and environments to engage in imagination play. These toys allow children to explore different roles and situations and stimulate creativity and imagination.

The study by Eugene Subbotsky and Claire Hysted called “Watching Films with Magical Content Facilitates Creativity in Children Authors” found that children become more inventive and creative when exposed to magic and magical creatures, such as in some toy themes.

By providing children with the opportunity for open-ended play, hands-on exploration and storytelling, toys become a powerful tool for encouraging creativity and imagination.

#3 Interact and bond with family

Bonding is the process by which family members develop strong and close bonds with each other. It involves various aspects such as sharing experiences, creating memories and building emotional connections.

A study called “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond” by Regina M. Milteer and Kenneth R. Ginsburg highlights the importance of play in promoting healthy development and strengthening the bond between parents and children. It also highlights that children living in poverty often face barriers to playtime, which can affect their social and emotional development.

Toys play an important role in promoting this bond. It offers different ways for family members to interact and have fun, such as building blocks, playing board games, drawing together and making creations.

Playing together allows parents and children to spend quality time and see the world from each other's perspective. This not only promotes emotional bonding but also helps in learning and developing various skills.

Toys provide a fun and engaging way to strengthen this bond and promote healthy relationships within the family.

#4 Increase physical activity

Physical activity is any form of exercise that increases your heart rate and works your muscles. It includes activities such as walking, cycling, running, swimming and dancing. It's a great way to improve your fitness, lose weight, improve your mood and promote healthy habits.

Toys provide a fun and challenging way to develop skills such as balance, coordination and strength. Building blocks can help children create their own play worlds and build their motor skills. Outdoor toys such as bicycles, scooters and Frisbees can encourage children to get outside and exercise.

The University of North Carolina study, published in the January 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed that children were more physically active when their child care center had more portable play equipment, such as balls, hoops and jump ropes.

So toys for physical development can make a big difference in your child's activity level.

#5 Improve concentration

Concentration is the ability to focus your attention on a specific goal and ignore external distractions. It requires internal focus and mental effort.

Toys can help improve concentration. For example, using fidget aids, such as chewable toys, can provide sensory stimulation and help regulate stimuli. This can help children, especially those with ADHD or general challenges, concentrate better.

In addition, puzzles, memory games and story blocks can stimulate cognitive skills, which contributes to better concentration. Research, such as Slater & French's (2010) study, has shown that using fidget aids, such as toys, can help students ignore distractions and focus better.

#6 Develop motor skills

Motor skills are the ability to perform movements using the muscles and nervous system. These skills may include fine motor skills such as grasping a toy, writing with a pencil, and using a spoon.

Toys can help develop motor skills in various ways. It offers children the opportunity to manipulate their hands and fingers, strengthen their muscles and improve their coordination. In addition, the use of toys stimulates the senses and promotes creativity and cognitive skills.

Research by Wang, H., Chen, Y., Liu, J., Sun, H., & Gao, W. (2020) has shown that more toys do not necessarily lead to better motor skill development. For middle-income families, it turned out that improving the material environment at home, such as more play space and toys, did not accelerate motor development.

In contrast, more play opportunities with friends and participation in various sports activities could promote children's motor skills.

#7 Promote social and emotional development

Emotional development is the process by which children learn to deal with and understand their emotions and those of others. It includes the ability to recognize, express and regulate emotions, as well as developing empathy and social skills.

Toys play an important role in promoting emotional development. It offers different ways for children to practice and learn about emotions. For example, toys can help children recognize and name emotions through role-playing or using dolls and stuffed animals with different facial expressions.

Emotional support toys, such as dolls and stuffed animals, play an important role in promoting emotional development. They offer children the opportunity to express themselves and practice showing empathy and care for others. A study called “Doll play prompts social thinking and social talking: Representations of internal state language in the brain” by Salim Hashmi, Ross E. Vanderwert, Amy L. Paine, Sarah A. Gerson showed that playing with dolls encourages children to to talk more about the thoughts and emotions of others.

The research suggests that playing imaginary games with dolls can help children develop social skills, theory of mind and empathy.

The educational importance of playing with Lego and building toys is widely recognized, but the benefits of playing with dolls sometimes seem to have been overlooked.

#8 Develop problem-solving skills

Problem solving is the ability to identify challenges and problems, generate and select effective solutions, and evaluate and verify these solutions. It involves analyzing problems from different perspectives and coming up with creative approaches to solve them.

Studies, such as those by Trawick-Smith, Russell & Swaminathan (2011), have shown that toys have a positive influence on children's ability to solve problems. It stimulates symbolic expression, creativity and social skills. It also provides children with the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and develop resilience.

Toys such as building blocks and puzzles provide children with the opportunity to practice their problem-solving skills. They learn to build complex structures, remember information and learn new things. This helps them to develop their analytical and technical skills.

Second, board games and other toys with challenging rules can teach children how to make strategic decisions and solve problems. They need to think about the best moves and consider possible consequences. This stimulates their critical thinking skills and helps them tackle complex problems.

A specific toy designed to solve problems is the 'failure toy'. These toys are designed so that children can make mistakes and learn from their failures. It encourages them to be resilient and keep trying even when they encounter obstacles. By experimenting and finding new solutions, children further develop their problem-solving skills.

#9 Help discover interests, hobbies and careers

Careers are the paths we choose in our careers to advance in life and gain more satisfaction from our work.

Toys play an important role in this area. For example, building with blocks can develop fine motor skills and spatial awareness, which can be useful in fields such as architecture and construction. Creative toys, such as art and craft supplies, can inspire children to explore their artistic interests and possibly pursue a career in art or fashion. Puzzles and mind games can stimulate analytical thinking and problem-solving skills, which can be useful in scientific and mathematical fields.

Research by retail group Argos has shown that toys can have a direct impact on adults' interests and career choices. For example, more than 60% of adults who work in design-related jobs, such as architects and designers, enjoyed playing with building blocks as children. Even more—66%—of those working in math-related roles, such as accountants and bankers, preferred puzzles.

Do all types of toys provide the same benefits?

No, not all toys offer the same benefits. It choosing the right toys for specific goals is important. Electronic toys lack certain benefits but encourage others. Toys also differ from games. Early intervention toys can help, as can blocks, clay, dolls, sand, water, dinosaurs, slime, puppet shows, cars and wooden toys, all of which offer different benefits.

Advantages of non-electronic versus electronic toys

The benefits of non-electronic toys differ significantly from electronic toys. For example, a study called “Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication” by Anna V Sosa shows that playing with electronic toys leads to a decrease in the quantity and quality of language input compared to playing with books or traditional toys.

When playing with electronic toys, there is less interaction between parent and child, or children themselves, which means there is less opportunity to communicate and practice this.

Electronic toys can again offer advantages in the field of learning to code and the jobs of the future.

Benefits of toys versus games

The benefits of toys and games vary enormously. A study called “Games people play: How video games improve probabilistic learning” by Schenk, S., Lech, R., & Suchan, B. (2017) suggests that playing video games can improve the use of declarative knowledge, as well as the hippocampal involvement and overall learning performance during probabilistic learning. Games can develop skills, promote learning and provide various learning opportunities.

Toys, on the other hand, can promote social interaction, encourage physical activity and stimulate creativity. Playing games can also promote patience, while toys provide children with the opportunity to learn through stories and scenarios.

Benefits of early intervention toys

Early intervention is the provision of support and assistance to young children with developmental delays or disabilities. The aim is to help them improve their skills and develop optimally.

One of the most important benefits of early intervention toys is that they help children improve and develop their motor, cognitive, language and social skills through play.

According to a study called “The Effectiveness of Early Intervention: A Critical Review” by Parry, T. (1992), early intervention has been shown to be clearly effective in providing parental support, promoting parent-child relationships and reducing anxiety.

Benefits of playing with blocks

Playing with blocks helps children develop cognitive skills, such as spatial awareness and problem-solving skills. It also promotes language development, communication and motor skills.

By Playing with blocks teaches children to be creative, understand and manipulate concepts of shapes and sizes, and improve their fine motor skills. It also encourages cooperation and empathy, and gives children a sense of achievement and self-confidence.

Playing with Lego offers additional benefits as it allows children to build more complex structures and further develop their building skills. It also encourages the use of strategies to overcome challenges and stimulates the imagination and exploration of endless possibilities.

Benefits of playing with play-doh

Playing with Play-Doh offers many benefits. It helps children develop social and motor skills. Playing with clay is also a therapeutic activity that helps release stress and regulate emotions. It stimulates creativity and imagination, and improves cognitive thinking and problem-solving skills.

Playing with clay also allows children to practice their language and math skills, such as counting and expanding their vocabulary. It promotes collaboration and offers opportunities to experiment and discuss creations.

Benefits of playing with dolls

Playing with dolls helps children develop social skills, strengthens motor skills and stimulates imagination and creativity. By creating imaginary worlds and telling stories, children develop their coordination and learn to manipulate.

Playing with dolls also strengthens the muscles in the hands, which is useful when holding a pencil. In addition, dressing up and caring for dolls promotes a sense of caring and encourages independence.

While there are many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to playing with dolls. For example, it can lead to an overfocus on appearance and beauty, especially when playing with Barbie dolls.

Benefits of playing with sand

Playing with sand helps children develop various skills, such as fine motor skills and construction skills. Playing with sand provides a natural and stimulating environment in which children can learn and discover new things. It promotes creativity and imagination, and provides social opportunities for interaction and collaboration.

Language development and cognitive skills are also trained playing with sand, and stimulates the senses and motor skills. It is a calming and therapeutic activity that helps relax and regulate emotions, and it strengthens muscles and coordination.

Benefits of playing with water

Playing with water helps children improve their motor skills and learn new skills. It stimulates the senses and encourages children to explore the world around them.

Water play also supports the development of cognitive skills, such as learning mathematical concepts and observing and experimenting with volume. In addition promotes playing with water social interaction and communication, and strengthens fine motor skills and coordination of the fingers. It also provides relaxation and reduces stress, and stimulates imagination and creativity.

Benefits of playing with slime

Playing with slime has many benefits. It helps children develop their senses, motor skills and communication skills. Playing with slime stimulates imagination and creativity, while also strengthening fine motor skills and coordination.

It provides a therapeutic activity that helps regulate emotions and reduce stress. In addition, learning playing with slime children basic chemistry concepts and helps expand their vocabulary and ideas.

Benefits of playing with finger puppets

Playing with finger puppets stimulates imagination and creativity, promotes social and emotional development, and supports the development of motor skills. Playing with finger puppets gives children the opportunity to create different characters and imitate behavior, which helps with understanding and expressing emotions.

In addition, playing with dolls promotes language development and stimulates interaction and communication with others. Manipulating the dolls and performing different movements also helps develop fine motor skills and coordination.

Benefits of playing with cars

Playing with cars helps children improve their motor skills, develop their imagination and improve their communication and cognitive skills. Playing with cars also provides opportunities to practice and improve social skills, such as cooperation and communication.

In addition, it stimulates playing with cars creativity and helps children improve their ideas and vocabulary. It also promotes the development of spatial awareness and introduces concepts such as distance and math in a fun and engaging way.

Advantages of wooden toys

Wooden toys are natural, safe and promote children's development. Wooden toys are designed for play and learning, and offer a better option than plastic toys that often contain harmful chemicals. It is durable and resistant to wear and tear, making it long lasting and reducing waste.

Wooden toys stimulate children's imagination and creativity, encouraging them to explore and discover new possibilities. It has been developed according to principles of renowned psychologists to support the growth and development of children. Wooden toys also provide a pleasant tactile experience and have a timeless aesthetic appearance that helps beautify the space.

Benefits of playing with walkie talkies

Playing with walkie talkies improves communication skills and encourages active outdoor play and exploration. It encourages adventures and can be useful in emergency situations, providing a sense of security.

In addition, it promotes playing with walkie talkies listening, speaking and formulating clearly to communicate effectively with each other via the walkie talkies. This also improves the ability to understand and follow instructions, essential in many aspects of daily life.

Benefits of playing with tools

Playing with tools lets you work with your child to educate and inspire them and develop their creativity and skills as they work on projects. Give your child space to learn and discover, and encourage their curiosity as they explore the world of tools and construction. Also teach them the importance of tidying up and organizing everything neatly playing with tools, which teaches them discipline and responsibility.

Benefits of playing with dinosaurs

Playing with dinosaurs provides children with an educational experience that exposes them not only to the diversity of dinosaurs, but also to the names and characteristics of each species. It helps develop skills such as creativity, communication and cognitive thinking. Playing with dinosaurs stimulates the imagination and helps children create new worlds.

By identifying their favorite dinosaurs and understanding what they looked like and lived, children develop a foundation for an interest in science and biology. Dinosaurs serve as an engaging and educational tool that sparks children's imaginations and encourages them to discover more about the world around them and what it was like millions of years ago.

Benefits of playing with shape sorters

A shape sorter is an educational toy for young children that helps them recognize shapes, colors and develop fine motor skills. It is available cheaply and suitable for children from about 1 year old, but pay attention to the... age recommendations when playing with a shape sorter.

Benefits of playing video games

Gaming offers children and young people several benefits, such as the development of physical and mental skills, improved media literacy and the promotion of cooperation. Research shows that it playing video games can have positive effects on sleep quality and an active lifestyle.

Benefits of playing with animals

Playing with animals has many benefits. A toy farm is not only fun, but also teaches children about nature, farm life and animal care. It stimulates creativity, sense of responsibility and hand-eye coordination, and playing with animal toys offers opportunities for interactive play and making up stories.

Benefits of card games

There are a lot of card games that you can play with a standard deck of cards, and they all learn turn-taking and good sportsmanship. There are also some games that teach other skills, such as counting or strategic thinking.

Why is play so important in early childhood education?

Play is important in early childhood education because it gives children the opportunity to practice skills, gain positive experiences and build a strong foundation for their development. Playing allows children to be active, explore the world around them and discover new things.

It offers countless opportunities for social interaction, creativity, communication and physical and cognitive development. Play also promotes children's holistic growth as it stimulates their emotional, social and intellectual development.

It is also important to play together, because parents play an important role in their children's play. They can create a safe and supportive environment where children can play freely and use their imagination.

Parents can also actively participate in their children's play, giving them the opportunity to build strong bonds and reduce stress. By playing together, parents can stimulate their children's development and help them learn new skills.

There are several theories that support the importance of learning through play. These approaches emphasize the importance of play as a way to help children learn and grow.

Which theory supports learning through play?

Piaget's theory supports the idea of ​​learning through play. According to Piaget, play is an essential tool for children to understand the world and gain new knowledge. Playing offers children the opportunity to learn in an active and engaging way, developing important skills such as problem-solving, social interaction and language skills.

In addition to Piaget's theory, there are several other theories that support the importance of learning through play.

Montessori, for example, believed that play is an integral part of early childhood and that it provides children with the opportunity to develop in various areas such as cognitive, emotional and social skills.

Lev Vygotsky, on the other hand, argued that play promotes interaction between children and their environment, allowing them to explore new situations, come up with solutions and develop their cognitive skills.

What are the problems with today's children's toys?

The problems with current children's toys include limited play opportunities, lack of educational value, excessive use of plastic and health risks. These problems are more prevalent now than in the past.

The study by Page, T., & Thorsteinsson, G. (2017) called “Designing Toys to Support Children's Development”, the same that endorsed the important impact of play on cognition, concluded that toys also shape the positive or negative image of our childhood .

To address these issues, it is important to consider toys that are durable, such as wooden toys, and that encourage children's development without harmful chemicals.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.