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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

A toy analysis allows us to determine what the specific function of a toy is based on its characteristics and the play environment that it is intended for. The definition of a toy is a product that is used by a child in learning and play. When we analyze a toy, we must consider difference characteristics such as the gender, age groups, and specific behavioural functions that it was made for.

Classifications of Toys Analysis

There are a few different way in which you can analyze a toy:

  • Gender – toys can be categorized by gender, organizing them as toys for girls, boys or gender neutral.
  • Age – toys are usually tailored to a specific age group. The appearance and complexity of the toys change as children age
  • Behavioural factors – toys can also be categorized in terms of function and how they benefit the child’s sensory, motor, cognitive, and social development


Gender is an important thing to consider when analyzing a toy because they are often created based on socially created gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are generalizations about the gender attributes, differences, and roles of individuals or group.

Toys that are categorized for girls are typically associated with physical attractiveness, nurturance and domestic skills(Owen Blakemore, 2005). Toys for girls are based on the gender stereotype that girls will carry out domestic duties such as cooking, baking, and cleaning. Examples are dolls, houses, sinks, dishes, stoves, jewelry and clothing.

Toys that are categorized for boys are associated with sociability, competitiveness, aggressiveness, and constructiveness. Boys play in a more “spatial-temporal” environment (Alexander, 2006). This means that they move around a lot more and require toys that will facilitate lots of physical activity and movements. Examples are sports equipment, vehicles, clocks, and weapons.

Gender neutral toys are considered neither too feminine nor too masculine. However, some gender neutral toys are considered to be slightly masculine(Owen Blakemore, 2005). We also see a lot of gender neutral toys being used during infancy to facilitate early fundamental movements before they are influenced by gender differences. These toys are considered to be the most educational in helping to develop children’s physical, cognitive, artistic and other important skills.

Behavioural factors

Another way that a toy can be analyzed is by its behavioural function. Depending on the toy that the child is playing with, there are behaviours that the child should be exhibiting. These are the behavioural factors that we can analyze and categorize toys into (Reid, 2003):

Sensory factors:

  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Tactile

Motor factors

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Two-handed use
  • Eye-hand coordination

Cognitive factors

  • Visual tracking
  • Vocal imitation
  • Gestural imitation

Social components

  • Level of interaction with other children
  • Level of interaction with adults

When it comes to movement experiences, the biggest emphasis is placed on the motor factors because it provides the most observable behavioural changes (Reid, 2003).


After we determine the behavioural functions of a toy, we can analyze and match them to a specific age group. Within each age group, a child should be able to perform certain motor movements and develop their cognitive and sensory skills. There are many age groups that we can categorize toys into and within these groups are the motor skills that should be developing at that stage (Advocates for Youth, 2013):


  • Birth to 12 months old
  • Reach and grasp objects with hands
  • Push up with hands and knees
  • Transfer objects from one hand to the other
  • Sit up, stack objects
  • Crawl
  • Walking with a walker or piece of furniture


  • 12 months to 3 years old
  • Independent walking, climbing, pushing, riding
  • Begin to jump with both feet
  • Physical play and manipulation of toys
  • Build towers
  • Throw a ball


  • 3 to 4 years old
  • Climb stairs (assisted)
  • Skip on one foot
  • interaction with others
  • Lots creating and playing with hands


  • 5 years old
  • Skip on both feet
  • Hopping
  • Walk backwards and down stairs (unassisted)
  • Catching ball thrown from 1 meter away

Early elementary-aged

  • 6 to 8 years old
  • Increase in overall strength
  • Develop physical skills and coordination to enjoy junior versions of adult sporting equipment

Late elementary-aged

  • 9 to 12 years old
  • Develop and improve fine motor skills (arts) and continued expression and intermediate versions of team sports
  • Lots of interaction with others.

Within each age category, different behaviours will develop which is why this must be considered when analyzing a toy in order to determine the toys’ appropriateness (She Knows Everything Editors, 2013).

Application to Movement Experiences

When developing movement experiences, a piece of equipment or a toy is used in the environment to facilitate learning and playing. By determining the gender type of the toy, its target age group, and its general motor functions, we can interpret three of the most popular toys that we see today.

Sporting equipment

Most sports require some sort of equipment or toy in order to carry out the activity. We can analyze these to figure out the specific function and how it aids in movement experiences. Research and observations of these toys show that sporting equipment is mostly associated with boys and that a popular stereotype of the male gender is the association with sports(Alexander, 2009). As stated earlier, boys play in a more spatial temporal environment requiring lots of movement. This is exactly what sporting toys do. There is a large variety of sporting toys because of the different kinds that sports that exist our society. All movements of sport are based on fundamental skills which are developed when we are children. Adaptations and alternative toys are created depending on the age group so that their fundamental movements can be picked up with ease (Lee, 2008).

For example, we see a child at the age of 2 playing with a plastic bat and ball. The toys are lighter than a real standard bat and ball because at this age, a child has not developed enough strength to carry out a swinging action without adaptations. As a child ages, their motor skills will develop, allowing for more complex movements to be learned. They will possess more strength, range of motion, and eye-hand coordination (She Knows Everything Editors, 2013). An analysis of these toys is necessary in order to determine if it is appropriate for the intended age group or if an alternative to that toy is needed.


The traditional doll is a toy model of a human being or human like figure. Dolls are predominantly seen as a feminine toy, especially in the form of Barbie dolls and babies. These toys stimulate the sensory senses such as auditory, visual, and tactile more than motor because they are more meant for imagination or fantasy play (Owen Blakemore, 2005). Any movement experiences that dolls provide would be the personification of the toys. This would include trying to make the dolls walk, run, or jump while imitating those movements. Dolls for boys also exist but as toy soldiers, robots and action figures. If you analyze dolls for girls and for boys, there is a difference. Dolls for boys are usually more complex in that there are more joints, gadgets, and structures that allow for more movement as opposed to just the hinge movements at a Barbie’s shoulders and hips (Owen Blakemore, 2005). This supports the point that boys develop their motor skills in a spatial-temporal environment.


Balls are a simple shape but have a significant effect on movement experiences. They can remain a stationary toy until they are rolled, thrown, caught, kicked, or struck with an object. All of these actions help to develop various movement experiences. Balls are one of the most popular toys that we see because it is so versatile in its function (Reid, 2013). Both genders should equally benefit from the use of a ball; however we see more boys than girls playing with them (Reid, 2003). The natural movement of a ball is to roll, provoking movement. The dimension, texture, and weight of the ball can vary depending on the activity and especially the child’s age. A large and light rubber ball is easier to grip and maneuver, therefore it is more appropriate for an infant who is just learning to throw or grasp a ball. As a child ages, these toys will get larger and heavier which will develop strength and adaptations. If we analyze a ball that is heavier, smaller, and made of a low-friction material, a greater amount of strength, coordination and control is required to perform these same movements.


Safety is a big thing in the toy industry. After an analysis of the physical characteristics and functions of a toy, we must consider if the toy is safe enough for a child of a particular age or level of ability. Even if the general design of a toy is considered safe, there could still be issues during manufacturing, causing “safe, rubber tips” to fall off (McLaren, 2013). There is much indication that the current standard of toys is inadequate. (McLaren, 2013). Therefore, it is up to the parents or responsible adult to analyze the toy and determine its appropriateness for the child.


1. Advocates for Youth (2013) Growth and Development, Ages Six to Eight – What Parents Need To Know. Retrieved from:

2. Alexander, G. (2006). Associations among gender-linked toy preferences, spatial ability, and digit ratio: evidence from eye-tracking analysis. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 35(6), 699-709.

3. Alexander, G., Wilcox, T., & Woods, R. (2009). Sex differences in infants' visual interest in toys. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 38(3), 427-433. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9430-1

4. Lee, H., Bhat, A., Scholz, J., & Galloway, J. (2008). Toy-oriented changes during early arm movements IV: shoulder-elbow coordination. Infant Behavior & Development, 31(3), 447-469. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2007.12.018

5. McLaren, S., Page, W., Parker, L., & Rushton, M. (2013). Noise producing toys and the efficacy of product standard criteria to protect health and education outcomes. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 11(1), 47-66. doi:10.3390/ijerph110100047

6. Owen Blakemore, J.E., Centers, R.E. (2005). Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys. Sex Roles, 53(9/10) 619-633. Doi:10.1007/s11199-005-6629-0

7. Reid, D., DiCarlo, C., Schepis, M., Hawkins, J., & Stricklin, S. (2003). Observational assessment of toy preferences among young children with disabilities in inclusive settings. Efficiency analysis and comparison with staff opinion. Behavior Modification, 27(2), 233-250.

8. She Knows Everything Editors (2013, Jan 8) An Age-By-Age Guide to Buying Toys. Retrieved from: