What Makes a Toy Educational? The Impact of Educational Toys on Spatial Development in Preschoolers.
Abstract: This study examines the arbitrary "educational" label assigned to educational toys, and investigates the validity of these toys' marketing claims in a pilot study with two thrusts: 1) a play intervention with preschoolers, in which a group of five 4-year-old preschoolers played with a sample of eight educational toys for six twenty-minute play sessions; and 2) individual interviews with ... read morefive parents and five educators of preschoolers designed to extract their opinions of educational toys and their marketing claims. The educational toys selected for the sample of toys used in the play intervention were all marketed as improving spatial skills in some way. Children were allowed to play freely with the toys during each session. In order to determine whether or not playing with the selected toys impacted spatial skills, the Test of Spatial Ability (TOSA) was administered to obtain a pre- and post-test measure of participants' spatial ability. Parents of the child participants and educators participated in individual, twenty-minute interviews, in which they were asked their opinions of the efficacy of educational toys in meeting the learning outcomes they advertise; whether or not they provide such toys for children; and what they believed made toys "educational" in general. Only two of the five children participants demonstrated improvements in their performance on the TOSA. Parents and educators presented mixed opinions of the efficacy of educational toys; only two educators and three parents stated that they bought educational toys for children, and all participants expressed that they believed any toy could be educational, contingent on 1) the toy's appeal for the child and the child's subsequent enjoyment from playing with the toy; 2) the way the toy is used by the child; and 3) scaffolding during play from teachers, adults, and peers. This study underscores the need for more research investigating the efficacy of educational toys, the role they play in the way that parents and educators provide learning experiences for children, and how such toys are legitimately marketed.
Thesis (M.A.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of Child Study and Human Development.
Advisor: Julie Dobrow.
Committee: David Henry Feldman, and Holly Taylor.
Keywords: Early childhood education, and Developmental psychology.read less