The Effect of Toys on a Person's Psychological Development

The Effect of Toys on a Person's Psychological Development
You probably remember your favorite game from early childhood?many people do. The game most likely involved your favorite toy, perhaps a truck, or a doll. In fact, when you think about memories from your childhood, toys should be among the first things to come to mind to evoke a strong image of early childhood. Toys have been greatly underestimated by their possessors and especially by adults, dismissed as the ?supporting role? in indoor or outdoor pastimes, which they literally are. However, toys affect a person?s psychological development to a higher degree than we may realize.
Toys are a child?s tools for exploring, for learning about the world. The child uses toys not only for amusement, but for practice. Next to his imagination, a child?s toys have the most considerable influence as to which kind of game he will play. Balls and toy guns are usually seen as playthings for little boys, while dolls and jump ropes are more associated with little girls. Whichever kind of toy a child chooses to play with can reveal much about the makeup of his mind and about his personality. (Newson and Newson 98) The type of game that a child plays also tells an observer of that child?s temperament.
There are ?two major types of play: construction play and illusion play? (Neuman 69), both terms of which are fairly self-explanatory. Under these two categories, there are different approaches to the method of playing. A child is either a ?dramatist? or a ?patterner.? While children in the first group tend to take on roles in dramatic games or games of strategy in order to prepare for solving problems in life, children in the second are more like artists and builders, constructing tiny worlds in which dolls interact with each other. (Reynolds and Jones 2) For example, a girl who is a dramatist might prefer to dress up in her mother?s clothing and apply make-up in pretending to be grown up; but a girl who is a patterner would favor Barbie dolls to demonstrate what she would do as an adult. In the latter case, the child, or player, creates a small universe whose workings can change as her view of the world changes.
Dramatists are likely to be the center of attention. They usually take command in a game, leading other children in the direction that they want the game to go. In observing the games of a four-year-old named Tommy, a dramatist, Gretchen Reynolds and Elizabeth Jones noted his aggressiveness in pretend playing. His games usually involved few ?traditional? toys, utilizing objects in his environment as they progress. Tommy would assume a role as Batman or one of the Ninja Turtles and assign four or five friends to other roles. He would then guide the rest of the game in such a direction that the ?good guys? would win over the ?bad guys?; naturally, he would the head of the protagonists. On the other hand, patterners, because of their more introverted style of playing, are prone to play with fewer children. Their games involve less improvisation and require more ?props,? such as doll houses or railroad sets. Patterners also usually play with children of the same sex, probably because of the type of toys they use.
As before mentioned, there are certain toys that we are apt to label as more feminine or more masculine. In his ?Amusements of Worcester School Children,? T.R. Croswell conducted an extensive poll on the types of toys that boys and girls prefer. He found that some items are not as gender-specified as traditionally assumed. Several boys played with girl toys such as dolls or stove sets for playing ?house,? and some even placed those on their list of favorite toys. Some girls liked to play with wagons and toy guns.
It is a commonly held view among child psychologists that for children, playing is a type of practice, ?an opportunity to practice the diverse functions? of the process of? application and extension of information and skills? (Neuman 53). Since toys are almost directly related to play, it is only proper that a child?s toys are his most important possessions. Small children between the ages of three and six rely more on toys as a ?prop? in playing: they would take a toy, such as the universally adored stuffed animal, and hum and talk to and for the object with no apparent goal. The child is actually engaging in ?fantasy? playing, the golden years of which are between the ages of three and four. During this time the child likes to assign each toy with a name and a character trait, acting out simple stories over and over. The child likes repetition: it familiarizes him with the story and contributes to cognitive development. In fact, should someone, perhaps an adult or a new acquaintance, intervene and attempt to change the course of the game, the child may become irritated or refuse to continue playing altogether, because he has lost some sense of security. (Newson and Newson 97-99)
Child psychologists also see play ?as a function of the social-emotional, cognitive and creative development of the child.? (Neuman 140) In this view, playing is much more important than mere fun and games because its purpose transcends entertainment and exercise of physical maneuvers. In playing, a child?s mind matures. He learns to recognize right from wrong; he learns how to treat other children; and, on a less socially instructional level, he learns what is fun and what is not. (Reynolds and Jones 61-63) More important, he learns self-control: in his interactions, with other children, he learns to place others before himself because he will need to share his toys. Knowing how to cooperate with others will help him achieve social success in life.
As children grow older, they view toys in a different light. A doll or a truck is no longer merely a toy, but a prized possession; and in the case of a favorite toy, perhaps even a companion. (Newson 168) When a child first starts going to school, he may be reluctant to leave his ?friend? at home, or he may want to show off his favorite toy to his new classmates. As he makes new friends, he will begin to depend on toys less and less for amusement. Around this time the child will begin to engage in more dramatic play. The toys he used in his toddler years to act out stories will be played mostly by him or perhaps his friends. Soon his interest in ?traditional? toys may be lost completely.
When a boy plays with blocks, he does not conceive that they may help him with his analytical skills. When a girl dresses up her dolls, she does not realize that doing so may help develop her coordination skills. A child?s mind has often been compared to a blank page: it will retain whatever you place on it. If you give a child stuffed animals to play with, he may grow up to be more pacific than a child who was exposed to mostly action figures. Toys carry an extraordinary amount of influence. Parents may decide which television shows to allow their children to watch, but toys will decide whether the children want Big Bird to be president or be roasted for Thanksgiving. Growing up, my father bought Barbie dolls and stuffed animals for me. My mother bought me Lego sets. In a curious combination, I would play with all of those toys together. I built beds and closets for the Barbie dolls and food bowls for the animals. The Barbie dolls would ride on the furry dogs and bears as princess warriors with day jobs as models. Perhaps this is why I?ve never associated with only girls or boys; I preferred playing with a large group of both sexes at once as I did with girl toys and boy toys. If parents want to make sure their children don?t grow up to be too violent, they should avoid buying toys that trigger aggressive tendencies?it?s difficult to play house with G. I. Joe?s or wrestling dolls. Next to parents, toys are the most important things in a child?s life.

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