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Toys, or objects whose main intended use is for play, have the potential to enhance development (creative building blocks) or to alter or hinder development (violent video games). Toys are the primary tools of childhood that allow children to extend their play beyond what can be done through imagination, voice, or action alone. The careful selection of toys by adults, as well as mediation of their use, is an important way to facilitate the optimal development of children. As children grow, the use of toys typically changes from simple and physical (banging a block) to representational (pretending a block is a cup) to more complex and mental (playing board games). There tend to be gender differences in toy preferences: many girls prefer relation-based toys, whereas many boys prefer action-based toys. The influences of cultural expectations on these preferences cannot be separated from possible biological influences. There are also great individual differences in toy preferences regardless of gender.

See also: PLAY


Bergen, Doris, ed. Readings from Play as a Medium for Learning and Development. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International, 1998.

Fleming, Dan. Powerplay: Toys as Popular Culture. Manchester, Eng.:Manchester University Press, 1997.

Goldstein, Jeffrey H., ed. Toys, Play and Child Development. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Hughes, Fergus P. Children, Play, and Development. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.

Steffen Saifer

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 8