Why do children play and why do they need toys?

A quick look at the psychology and child rearing books shows that all the experts agree with what we as parents and people who were once children ourselves already know, play is important. In fact it is so important that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognises play as a fundamental right of every child.

What they will tell us is that play (sometimes known as undirected free time) is applicable to children of all ages, and even to adults. It ranges from boisterous games of tag to quiet dolls’ tea parties. It encompasses crafts, board games, and playing house, or being a superhero, backyard football and video games. Play is important for mental, physical, emotional and social growth and it is necessary that play sits alongside academic enrichment activities and is recognised as an activity worthwhile in its own right. Playing serves many purposes from stimulating the growing brain to allowing children to work though their fears and to bond with their parents and to become socially active enough to be friends with other children.

The role of toys in this process is as stimulation, as participant and as object of control that allows a child to be the director of the action and make decision even when in real life that control belongs to others. No one who has ever heard a four year old scold a teddy bear for being naughty will be in any doubt that children use their play to mimic the behaviour of adults and so come to an understanding of what is going on in their own lives but also how to eventually grow up.

Toys are the props around which a child’s play is organised, the actors in their stories and the means of accessing the world of adults and of their own imaginations. Toys need to be safe, effective and cherished. They need to be durable and affordable and most of all they need to be fun.