The Toy Manufacturers of America Guide to Toys and Play

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS A CHILD CAN DO IS PLAY


Introduction

One of the most important things a child do is play. Play is the essential joy of childhood and is also the way children learn about themselves, their environment and the people around them. As they play, children learn to solve problems, get along with other people and control their bodies as they enrich their creativity and develop leadership skills. When children play with a broad variety of toys, the experiences help them to develop to their fullest potential.

Children bring boundless energy and imagination to their play with toys and constantly developing new and creative ways to play. Because there are so many different kinds of toys and novel way to play with them, children learn that the world is a diverse place with unlimited possibilities. Toys thus have an exciting role in helping children to become mature, confident and imaginative adults.

This booklet has been designed to help you provide the best play opportunities for your child, describes how the toy industry and government work together to ensure toy safety and offers simple charts to guide you as you do your toy shopping. Have fun!

Learning through Play

Play is essential to a child's development and is the way that youngsters learn the skills they will need for a happy and capable adulthood. According to child development specialist, Mary Sinker, these are just some of the ways a child learns while playing.

Physical skills are developed through movement as a child learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance. Dexterity develops as he or she handles objects in play.

Language develops as a child plays and interacts with others. Beginning with cooing games with a parent and evolving to sophisticated levels such as telling stories and jokes, the ability to use language increases as the child plays. Social skills grow as the child plays. Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules are all important skills learned in early games. It is through imaginative play that the child begins to learn some of the roles and rules of society.

Understanding how the world works develops as a result of problem solving with toys. What fits here? How big is that? Is this color the same as that color? How can I balance these? A child moves on to higher levels of thought as he or she plays in a stimulating environment.

Emotional well being develops through positive play experiences. When children feel successful and capable as they play, they acquire important ingredients for emotional health. Sharing play experiences also forges strong bonds between parent and child throughout childhood. 3

Parental Involvement in Play

Parents are their child's first and best playmates. Not only do parents have an important role in choosing good toys, but research shows that the most creative children are those who have had adults involved in their play. The richest play occurs when the adult takes an active role and plays alongside the child, rather than just providing the toys or supervising the activity.

Becoming part of a child's play may take practice; after all, we have been taught to give up childish things and "grow up." Here are some suggestions for joining your child's play:

Observe: Watch your child closely to determine his or her skill levels and favorite activities.

Follow: join in and play at the child's level. You can add to the complexity of the play, but let your child be in control and determine the direction of the play.

Be Creative: Rediscover the child inside yourself and let go of the adult notion that there is only one way to play with a toy. Use toys as "springboards" and you'll be amazed at how many different ways you can play.

Have Fun: The wonderful thing about playing is that everyone is successful at it. Don't use playtime to test or stretch your child's skills. It's a time to feel good about yourself and each other--and to just have fun together.