Toys, Games, and the 5 Primary Factors of Child Development


When purchasing a toy or resources for your child’s development, consider the following factors that go into the value of the purchase and the areas that the toy or game will affect:

1. Reflexes – the toys and games we purchase for children affect the hand-eye coordination, muscle development, and dexterity. These games involve reaction time, rooting reflexes, and/or stimulus associations. From hula hoops to PlayStation, toys develop children’s reflexes in significant ways.

2. Sensory Capacities – consider whether the toys or games you purchase develop the child’s understanding of light and dark, mimicking, voice recognition, and patter associations. Many of the toys sold to younger children are specifically designed to stimulate touch (via texture), sight (via lights and bright colors), and hearing (via music and friendly voices). An often omitted sense from toys today is sent. Typically toys don’t begin to utilize olfactory senses till ages 6 and up.

3. Social Development –
a. Whether your someone who believes parents imprint on their infants, or whether the attachment is more of a survival mechanism, the relationships developed between siblings, parents, and other children of comparable age, are directly affected by the toys and games provided to children.
b. In addition to interactive cues provided by toys and games, there are also the gender norming that occurs from the gifts given to a child. Whether it is a tea set, action figures, Life the board game, Chess, easy-bake oven, or even a yo-yo; toys and games develop children’s understanding of social engagements and gender norming.
c. Toys and games also teach children how to adjust to circumstances, new roles, and possibly adversity. Do you vaguely remember the first time you played dodge ball or something competitive? Children start associating rank and roles as early as the 2-3 years old.

4. Cognitive Development –
a. In general young children 0-2 years of age focus on sensory-motor skills, social and substance awareness, and separation anxiety.
b. In ages 2-6, children begin to reason, associations become intuitive, and egocentric development and object permanence is settled.
c. In ages 6-12, operational and logical reasoning reach new heights, absent abstract thought. The use of the imagination has also reached its course.
d. In ages 12-adulthood, we reach the final stages of self-awareness and learn to reason through abstract thought, and to conceive of social or substance outside of prior stimulus.

5. Physical Development – It goes without saying, but parents must consider how a toy will develop the following physical features of a child
a. Bones – how does the toy promote or affect bone development?
b. Muscles – when selecting toys, consider which muscle groups the child will engage in using the toy or game selected. Ideally, you would want to make sure that your offering games and toys that stimulate and develop a well-rounded utilization of both arms, legs, chest, back, while keeping the child safe.
c. Cardio – from trampolines to hacky sacks, toys that encourage healthy heart rates and social engagement can often parlay into more athletic endeavors (another article for another time).

As a guardian or parent, each toy’s use should be monitored for proper use, safety, and on occasion, modeled or demonstrated for the child. Don’t be alarmed if you see a child imitating an older sibling or parent. Depending on the age, toys and games are often used to provide a reflection of the how the child interprets the world around them.

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