Solid Foundations to Grow on

Early childhood educators: go back to basics.

Every year, the Center for Early Childhood Education, Eastern Connecticut State University conducts a survey in which researchers observe children playing with a variety of toys -nominated by teachers, parents, researchers, and children themselves - in a free play setting in preschool classrooms. They code children’s use of the toys in three areas: thinking/learning/problem solving, social interaction, and creativity.

Sharing his insights with NAEYC, (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, a distinguished professor at the Center, identified the impact that different types of toys have on play.

The studies highlighted the effect that different toys have on children’s behaviour: whilst some toys positively influenced children’s thinking, their interaction with peers, and freedom to express themselves, others did not. This suggests that teachers can make decisions about toys as thoughtfully as they do when making decisions about any other area of the curriculum, Trawick-Smith noted, pointing out that some of the toys that look interesting to adults are ineffective in promoting development.


One significant trend emerged from the studies: basic is better. The highest-scoring toys were the simplest: hardwood blocks, a set of wooden vehicles and road signs, and classic wooden construction toys. Why? Because they allow for open-ended play – the opportunities to use them in multiple ways are limitless.


Of course, we agree with Professor Trawick-Smith. Recognising their responsibility to promote whole-child development, we hope pre-school teachers will choose toys wisely. Building blocks develop fine motor skills, large motor skills, social skills, and critical thinking skills. Not only that, they are safe to use, they withstand daily use, and – based on feedback from thousands of schools across the globe that use Unit Bricks - pre-schoolers never tire of them!


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