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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Educational Toys are made for use by a child in learning and play across all ages (Siegler, DeLoache, & Eisenberg, 2011). These toys are designed to enhance play experiences in children to help educate them with development of a specific skill or ability. Learning in childhood occurs across different domains of development, including physical, cognitive, and social and can be achieved through the use of educational toys (Siegler et al., 2011).


Ever since the 1920s, history has seen an emphasis on play in children. Between the 1920s and 1980s, popular toys were ones that emphasized outdoor and physical play (Bredin, 2015). Examples of this include the beach ball, Frisbee, and pogo stick (Bredin, 2015). Since the 1980s, however, children have entered the new digital age (Yingying, Liyan, & Zuyao, 2010). There has been an increasing emphasis on technological based toys with screens, sounds, and motion. These toys now focus primarily on spatial, cognitive, and intellectual development rather than motor development (Yingying et al., 2010). Educational toys have been increasingly popular since research has shown that children start developing important skills at a young age. An example of this is musical development. Introduction of music at an early age has been said to improve cognition in later life, and this emphasis is reflected clearly in the toys that have recently become popular (Peterson, 1920). Toys that involve tone and sound production, such as miniature pianos and xylophones, have recently become popular for young children (Bredin, 2015).


Play is a fundamental component of childhood development (Goldstein, 1994). As children develop, different types of play are integrated into their lives and different skills are learned through them. There are 3 stages of play, each one progressing and adding on to the previous (Goldstein, 1994). Stages are divided by age group, which correspond to infancy and toddlerhood, preschool and kindergarten aged, and elementary school aged.

Stage 1: 0-2 years – focus on sensory and information processing development


  • Play Involves use of reflexes
  • Play involves repetition of sounds and movements
  • Play involves symbolic interaction, using objects to represent concepts, other objects

Practice and Mastery

  • Play involves interaction with sensory information. (eg. tasting, smelling, or making sounds)
  • Play involves ritualistic behaviour, which includes consistently using different toys for the same purpose
  • Play involves simple make-believe

Stage 2: 2-5 years - focus on use of symbols, development of language, and learning to interact with others

Symbolic Play

  • Pretend play through representation of absent objects
  • Parallel play, where children are adjacent to one another, but not directly influencing one another’s behaviour
  • Play that involves development of language and communication

Stage 3: 7+ years - focus on interaction with others, school readiness, logic and reasoning

Games with Rules - Incorporates co-operative play

  • Institutional Games
  • Board Games
  • Play that involves thinking and reasoning

Benefits of Play

Play comes with many benefits to a child’s development. Some of these benefits include… (Goldstein, 1994)

  • fundamental motor skill development
  • sharpening senses
  • expression of emotions through empathy
  • sharing
  • turn taking
  • ordering
  • sequencing
  • vocabulary development
  • concentration
  • flexibility
  • role taking
  • imagination development
  • school readiness and preparedness

Toys for Each Domain of Development

Physical Development

Toys that enhance physical development encompasses motor skill acquisition, sharpening senses and reactions, and improving musculature and physical growth in children. From infancy to elementary school age, this can include toys that assist in crawling, walking, standing, kicking, throwing, and hand-eye coordination (Siegler et al., 2011). Examples of these at different ages are…

Infant/toddler- 0-2 years

  • rattles – grasping
  • large blocks - grasping, gross motor skills
  • walkers – walking, cruising
  • stacking rings – fine motor skills, grasping
  • balls of different sizes – catching, kicking, throwing, rolling

Pre-school/kindergarten - 2-5 years

  • wooden block toys – fine motor skills, hand eye coordination
  • large lego – fine motor skills
  • tricycle – gross motor skills
  • balls of different sizes – catching, kicking, throwing, rolling

Elementary - 7+ years

  • bikes and scooters - coordination, gross motor skills, leg musculature
  • balls of different sizes – fundamental motor skills, kicking, catching, throwing, rolling
  • tents and tunnels – crawling, crouching
  • skipping ropes – coordination, jumping

Cognitive Development

Toys that focus on cognitive elements of development target intellectual development in the form of concentration building, memory, focus and attention building, problem solving skill acquisition, and vocabulary improvement (Goldstein, 1994). Examples of these throughout different age groups include…

Infant/toddler- 0-2 years

  • toys with different colours, textures
  • toys that teach shapes, words, numbers – vocabulary development
  • activity books
  • simple, large-pieced jigsaw puzzles – problem solving skills
  • play instruments such as miniature xylophones or pianos – music learning

Pre-school/kindergarten - 2-5 years

  • story books (eg. Interactive Leapster books) – attention building
  • toys that enhance vocabulary development
  • simple math puzzles – problem solving skills
  • play instruments – music learning
  • jigsaw puzzles - problem solving skills
  • lego, building activities

Elementary - 7+ years

  • math games (eg. Math focused board or video games)
  • reading activities (eg. Interactive leapster books) – vocabulary and reading development
  • memory puzzles - problem solving skills
  • workbook activities – attention building
  • instruments – music learning
  • lego, building activities

Social Development

Toys that cultivate social development focus on personality building, emotional development and empathy. They also include learning how to express emotion, delay of gratification, and development of imagination and creativity. Toys can elicit these skills by teaching children how to practice taking turns, wait for others, and use their words to express emotions. These toys can also help children develop empathy and care towards others through co-operation and role-playing, often through co-operative games and soft learning dolls (Ginsburg, 2007). Examples of these across the age groups are…

Infant/toddler- 0-2 years

  • kitchen sets – role playing
  • tool kits - role playing
  • plush toys – soft learning

Pre-school/kindergarten - 2-5 years

  • parachute games –co-operation
  • plush toys – learning to care for others
  • board games – co-operation

Elementary - 7+ years

  • board games – turn taking
  • co-operative activities (eg. Assembling toys)
  • puzzles

Safety Concerns

It is important to address safety concerns when talking about any type of toy designed for children. Health Canada outlines very clear guidelines and safety requirements for any child toys and products that are on the market through the document “Industry Guide to Health Canada’s Safety Requirements for Children’s toys and related products” (2012). By definition, toys are made for children under the age of 14, and undergo tests and procedures to ensure that they are suitable for their intended age group. Hazards are clearly outlined by Health Canada for all toys, and include suffocation, strangulation, puncture and sharpness, and other mechanical hazards. Flammability and toxicity concerns are also addressed through regulations. Recommendations are also made by Health Canada to aid manufacturers in producing well-made toys. Other hazards are age group specific, such as toys with small components and choking hazards. Toys also undergo rigorous testing and labeling regulations before they are allowed to be mass produced (Health Canada, 2012).

Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are discussed often in toys, and there is no exception for educational toys. Studies have shown that musical instruments are classified as neutral toys, but there is a discrepancy between emphasis on social development through role-playing and social, co-operative play and motor and physical development through physical play. Girls are more often encouraged to play with kitchen sets and co-operative games than boys, and boys are more often encouraged to play with balls and sporting equipment (Bredin, 2015).. As outlined previously, there are benefits for both boys and girls to be playing and experiencing all different types of play, especially in regards to toys (Ginsburg, 2007).


When choosing toys for your child to play with, it is important to consider the different domains of development that they focus on. It is important to choose toys within a range of domains of development, including physical, cognitive, and social. Focus on one area of development is not beneficial to your child at an early age, as all domains are equally important. Educational toys that emphasize more than one skill or area of development or toys that can be used across different age ranges are highly recommended (Ginsburg, 2007).


Bredin, S. (2015). Kin 366: Case Study Seminar Series- Toys for Developing Optimal Movement Behaviour. Retrieved from

Ginsburg, K.R. (2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-child Bonds. Pediatrics, 119,182. Doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-2697

Goldstein, J.H. (Ed.). (1994). Toys, Play, and Child Development. New York, NY: Cambridge.

Industry Guide to Health Canada’s Safety Requirements for Children’s toys and related products. (2012). Retrieved from

Peterson, L.C. (1920). Educational Toys. The Elementary School Journal, 21, 318-319. Retrieved from

Siegler, R., DeLoache, J., & Eisenberg, N. (2011). How Children Develop: Third Edition. New York: NY: Worth Publishers.

Yingying, S., Liyan, G., Zuyao Z. (2010). Researches and development of interactive educational toys for children. Artificial Intelligence and Education, 29, 344- 346. doi: 10.1109/ICAIE.2010.5641504