WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH)– How often do you buy a toy for your child and he or she never plays with it or only plays with it for just a couple of days? At Eastern Connecticut State University, researchers went to the experts to find out which toys are most popular.
The preschoolers at ECSU’s early childhood center didn’t need any prompting. They knew what they liked and they let their imaginations take over.
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We asked one young boy what he was playing with. “A crocodile driving a car,” he said.
For the TIMPANI study, which looks at quality of play, the kids were observed in a natural setting with cameras catching every move. After viewing thousands of hours of videotape, researchers found two toys stood out: Hot Wheels and a double easel with paints.
“We found that children really interacted with each other when they could stand side-by-side, and they did a lot of problem-solving, used lots of language,” said Jeff Trawick-Smith, who is internationally recognized for his study of children’s play.
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He says both toys inspired imagination and quality play, and noted Hot Wheels along with all vehicles got the kids’ creative wheels turning.
“Girls actually performed at a higher level in terms of their play than boys when using those toys,” said Trawick-Smith. “So it kind of like dispels a myth that cars are just for boys.”
This is the sixth year of the TIMPANI study, in which two-years ago, Duplo or Lego-type building blocks were on top. As far as electronic toys, like a talking phone, kids quickly became disconnected.
“It kind of caught children’s attention initially, but then they really didn’t play with it in a quality way,” said Trawick-Smith.