Babies begin to play from early on in their infancy. They are curious and attracted to brightly colored toys and sometimes random things like small bits on the carpet and empty packaging. Through play, babies learn to interpret their world and increase their mental, social, emotional, and physical skills. The enormous benefits of play for development has been long known. This has led to much investigation as to what kinds of toys are best for children's development. Parents and toy companies alike often want to enhance their child's engagement with play through toys. A recent study looked at what helped improve the quality of children's play—less or more toys? Development estimated that fewer toys in a child's environment would lead to better play. The study participants were 36 toddlers aged around 24 months. Seventeen of the children were only children. Children were screened for the exposure to play prior to entering the study to ensure that they had a good repertoire and experience of play.
The studyA variety of 32 sit-and-play, gender neutral toys were used in this study. Toys represented three categories:
- Educational (toys that may teach a concept such as shapes, colors, or counting)
- Pretend (toys that suggest themed play scenarios for "as if" play)
- Action (toys that can be activated through manipulation or toys that encourage exploration)
Each session was videotaped. Play behavior was coded following the two-minute adjustment period. The researchers were interested in three things: 1. The number of toys the toddlers played with. 2. How long the toddler played with each toy. 3. The number of actions the toddlers used when playing with the toy. For example actions such as drumming, dumping, exploring, pretending, matching, gathering, or inserting were all recorded as different types of actions.