Toy Science?

Like most other kids, I guess, Asher is so curious about the world around him. He's fascinated by things that fit in other things (his stacking cups, shape sorter and a shoebox that we have put a bunch of his toys in) and the sounds things make as he whacks two objects together. I love to watch him play, and I love it when he gets engrossed in something enough to play by himself for a bit. Watching him playing and learning brings on pangs of insecurity - am I providing a stimulating enough invironment for my little one?

So when I read the websites and packaging from various toy manufacturers I get the idea that there must be armies of toy scientists employed by these companies. Anything with lights obviously 'stimulate baby’s visual sense' while other objects 'develop finger and hand dexterity'. Cuddly toys with faces apparently 'enhance baby’s sense of security, inviting baby to hug & express friendship'. Which makes me think that the toy researchers, wearing white lab coats and clutching clipboards probably assess the infants and toddlers through one way mirrors, noting down the way that they play with toys and the way they respond to stimuli. I'm sure these scientists and behaviourlists then conduct longitudinal studies that look at how well children do at school based on the toys play with.

But I know that my imaginings bear as much resemblance to reality as the Ponds Institute does to a centre for higher learning. It's not like that at all, and these companies are just trying to play on our insecurities as parents to get us to buy their products, not that all toys are bad, but there isn't that much thought going in to their design by the big toy manufacturers. Even Asher's favourite toys could do with simple improvements. For instance the cube in the shape sorter looks like a cube but isn't and therefore only fits in to the square hole a certain way. I still wish I could find stacking cups like the bakelite ones that were once at my grandparents house. 'Only' two or three colours but as well as all stacking together the ones that were the same colour would stack properly and of course they could be nested or stacked facing 'up' with the smallest down the bottom like other stacking/nesting cups I've seen. If I was designing them now there would be ten cups and each would have perhaps a painted number and raised dots to indicate which in the series it was.

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