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Developmental Psychology: Designing Educational Toys Research Paper


Toys have a long history of discoveries with their remains being found in major historical sites. The discovery of such toys is indicative of the long history of toys. The conventional toys were mainly made of wood, and they had limited features. In the contrast, the contemporary toys are made of different materials including plastic, wood, cotton, and glass. Additionally, the modern toys have numerous features meant to offer both entertainment and educate children (Lewis 203).

Toys have gained increased use in the contemporary world with designers claiming that the modern toys have educational value. Various scholars who claim that the educational value assertions made by the manufacturers are only meant to boost sales have downplayed the application of toys in education (Plowman and Stephen 152).

However, the proponents of toys being useful educational tools have insisted that the toys not only entertain but they also promote intellectuality, and enhance emotional or physical development (Cross 65). Some scholars have also indicated the usefulness of toys in promoting the education of the disabled children. Toys have been specifically identified as useful learning tools for children with learning disorders since they promote symbolic learning.

This paper seeks to research about the toy designs and establish the connection between the design and the educational value of the toy. The paper shall invoke both the qualitative and the quantitative methods to achieve the said objective. The paper shall also review the literature to get both the supportive and the opposing views by various authors.

Literature review

Fisch states that a good toy should be designed in such a way that it entertains and aids a child’s cognitive development (170). He asserts that toys accomplish two main purposes namely educating and providing entertainment to the kids. Toys help children develop cognitively, and they provide entertainment meant to boost the child’s cognitive development. Therefore, the designers of such toys target the two aspects to entertain kids and help them to develop important skills.

Brandt and Colton define a toy as any object that comfortably fits on the table, and that is easy for the kid to manipulate and use (134). He claims that toys are symbolic of the objects present in the real world. Hence, they help kids to grow and interact with the real world. A well-designed toy is the one that attracts the kid’s attention and though it is easy to use, it will require the child to concentrate on using it effectively.

The concentration required from the kid helps the kid to develop cognitive skills that may be helpful in the child’s growth. Children develop in stages, and each stage of the development process is characterized by the attainment of certain skills. Toys should be designed in such a way that they fit the varying needs of different kids. Toys meant for pre-elementary children should differ in structure and size from those who are already in school.

Nwokah argues that the educational value of a toy depends on the stage of development of the kid and that toys should be designed in such a way that they align with the child’s developmental needs (61). Toys for small kids, for example, may not have any educational value for adolescents. However, some special kinds of toys such as video games may be helpful to children in their adolescent stages.

The toys for the grown kids, on the other hand, may not be helpful to small kids who are in their early developmental stages. For a toy to achieve the educational objective it is designed to accomplish, it must be aligned with the age of the child. As stated earlier in this paper, a toy should be easy for the child to use hence the child’s developmental stage should be considered when designing the toy.

For preschool youngsters, simple wooden toys could be effective in stimulating the child’s development. Such toys should not contain many features since the child does not have the knowledge and skills to interact with numerous features. The toy should be designed to stimulate hand-eye coordination, which is Important for the kid’s development. “For a child moving towards elementary school, other more sophisticated features should be included in the toys to aid the development of additional skills” (Fisch 178).

Fisch adds that interlocking “manipulative toys such as the Lego or the puzzles, for example, have additional features that challenge the children to improve hand-eye coordination, patience, and an understanding of the spatial relationships” (178). Finally, the toy for an elementary school child should have the most sophisticated features. Going by the statement given above, the education value of the toys increases with the age of the child owing to the additional features included.

Riktige argues that children are at their developmental stages and that they are creative and innovative (31). Therefore, toys should be designed in such a way that they encourage innovation and creativity among the users. They should not be too simple to use but they should encourage the kid to explore the different features and possibly improve the working of the toy.

The interaction between the kid and the toy should contain some complications to stimulate creativity and learning for the kid. The toy should be designed in such a way that it encourages the kid to innovate. The object should be aligned with the with the child’s cognitive development needs. The older the kid, the more sophisticated the features should be. The designer’s presumption is that the toy is not only for entertainment but also for educational purposes.

However, Pastor, Ojeda, and Salas have a different view regarding toys, and they claim that toys are only meant to entertain children and that they do not have any educational value (190). The designers place ads that portray the toys as educative and ones that help children develop cognitively. The educational claims that designers place in their adverts are only meant to attract the attention of parents to boost sales for the respective companies.

The demand for toys has in the recent past grown tremendously owing to the increase in the global population. In that regard, firms have resulted in using all the available means to outsmart each other in the global market. According to him, the growing competition among toy producing firms has driven companies to use all the available techniques to outsmart each other. Therefore, toys do not have any educational value and they only act as entertainment tools for children.

Blakemore and Centers emphasize the importance of toys in supporting the acquisition of skills among the children with learning disorders (624). He insists that toys are useful learning tools for children with developmental problems since they help in the acquisition of skills among the mentioned group of children. He cites video gaming and other computerized forms of toys as examples of the tools that may help a kid acquire the necessary cognitive skills.


Sample size

The study recruited 35 CEOs and managers of different toy manufacturing firms. To qualify as a participant, the CEOs had to have at least 5-year experience in the firm. The study also recruited 20 parents who were regular customers for toys. The parents had children aged between 4 and 9 years.

The data was collected through both interviews and questionnaires. In the interviews, parents were asked to describe the kind of toys they would buy for the kids. Out of the 20 parents, two dropped out from the study for various reasons. The other 18 parents continued with the study to completion.


The law requires that the relevant bodies approve studies involving human subjects. In complying with the said provision, the study was approved by the concerned institution review board.

Study objectives

The study seeks to establish whether the toys available on the market have any education value. The presumption for designers is that toys are designed to aid cognitive development among kids. However, various scholars have disputed the assertion by saying that it is a marketing tactic meant to drive parents to buy toys.

This research is designed to unravel the education value of toys. The study shall use both the quantitative and the qualitative methods to establish the connection. Toys designed for children aged between 4 and 9 years are specifically addressed in this research.

Qualitative methods

The qualitative method of research involves the use of interviews to collect data from the participants (Jin 104). In this study, each participant was interviewed for 30 minutes in which she or he was required to answer pre-prepared questions regarding the educative value of their toys. The questions posed included:

  1. Describe the educative value of the toys your company produces
  2. How does design affect the educational value for toys?
  3. How has your child benefited from the use of toys?
  4. Describe the type of toys mostly used by your children

Questionnaires were also used alongside the interviews where the participants were required to fill open-ended questions regarding the topic.

Quantitative methods

The quantitative method involved a meta-analysis of the literature. All the articles reviewed in this study were based on research. Fifteen articles were selected for review in this study. The articles were extracted from various databases such as Medline. Articles with similar findings were grouped and given special codes. A group of two researchers reviewed articles supporting the education value of toys. Two other researchers reviewed articles with opposing views.


H1- Toys have educational value, which increases with the age

H2- Toys only serve the entertainment function, and they have no educational value.


The findings confirm the education value of toys. Ten parents out of the 18 parents confirmed the education value of toys. All the CEOs confirmed that the education value for toys is considered during the designing of toys. Eight out of the 15 articles reviewed in this paper supported the hypothesis that to us have educational values.

Seven articles, however, opposed the view, and the authors felt that toys were only meant for entertainment purposes. The majority of the parents interviewed said that toys had educational value. All the ten parents concurred that they usually buy toys based on their design. For children aged between 4 and 6 years, toys with fewer features are preferable.

Such toys only have little features meant to impart eye coordination skills on the kid. The absence of complicated features makes it easy for the kids to use the devices without relying on their parents. According to the parents, such toys help the kid interact with the world, and they instill a sense of reality among the children. However, the parents also said that the toys also provided some form of entertainment to the kids.

For children aged between 6 and 9 years, toys with more sophisticated features were preferable. The sophisticated nature of features in toys for the elder class of kids is meant to spark more development and row the hand-eye coordination further. Five parents asserted that they bought toys for entertainment purposes and disputed the education value of toys. The parents selected toys without considering their ability to impart cognitive skills on the beneficiaries.

Eight articles out of the fifteen articles reviewed in this study supported the hypothesis that toys have educational value and that the design determines their ability to impart the required skills on the kid. The kids benefit from the acquisition of cognitive skills from using the appropriately designed toys. The age of the child must be considered when selecting the appropriate toy for the kid.

The other 7 articles opposed the view that toys serve as educational tools for kids. According to the articles, toys only serve the entertainment purposes. The CEOs unanimously claimed that they design toys based on the age of the child. They claimed that toys aid children acquire cognitive skills depending on their age.


The topic of toys having educational value has ignited heated debate over the past few decades with some arguing that toys are designed to educate while others claim that they do not have any educational value. Skeptics of toys being educative cite the stiff competition among firms as the reason for companies resulting in emphasizing the education value of toys (Dupakoski 107).

The companies place ads that advise parents to buy the toys as education tools for their children. This research seeks to establish the connection between the two aspects. The researchers used the qualitative research method to conduct the study. The study population was drawn from a cross-section of CEOs drawn from toy producing companies. Parents were also included in the study with 20 parents being recruited for the study.

Interviews and questionnaires were used to collect the information from both the CEOs and the parents. Use of interviews is congruent with the qualitative method of research. The findings show that toys are designed to entertain and to educate. Most of the CEOs interviewed revealed that the toys they produce are designed to ignite cognitive development among kids. The education value of the toys varies with the age of the child.

For small children have few features compared to toys meant for older kids. The CEOs described the toys as educative and entertaining to children of various levels. Parents too described the toys as being educative. Ten parents out of the 18 parents confirmed that they buy toys for educational purposes. The findings from the research indicate that the parents buy different designs for different ages. The findings confirm the educational value for toys.

The findings from this research concur with the findings by other researchers on the same topic. Habgood and Ainsworth found that toys had both the entertainment and educational value. Evidence from the literature indicates that toys aids children develop cognitive skills (175). This study illuminates the importance of toys in the development of children.

However, the findings of the research were limited by the small sample size used. The sample population was drawn from New York City; hence, the results may not reflect the situation on the ground. Financial constraints limited the ability of the researchers to recruit a larger sample population. If a larger sample population were used, probably the results would be more reliable.

Future researchers should recruit a larger sample to obtain results that are more reliable. The sample should be drawn from a cross-section of toy producing companies from around the globe and it should not be limited to one city or country as it is the case with this study. Future studies should use both the qualitative and the quantitative research methods to enable the generalization of the results.

Works Cited

Blakemore, Judith, and Renee Centers. “Characteristics of boys’ and girls’ toys.” Sex Roles 53.9 (2005): 619-633. Print.

Brandt, Adam, and Mark Colton. Toys in the classroom: LEGO MindStorms as an educational haptics platform, New York, NY: IEEE, 2008. Print.

Cross, Gary. Kids’ stuff: Toys and the changing world of American childhood, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.

Dupakoski, Elizabeth. Education, Toys and Architecture: Utilizing Educational Products to Derive Principles for Elementary School Design, Cincinnati: University of Cincinnati, 2007. Print.

Fisch, Shalom. Making educational computer games educational, New York: ACM, 2005. Print.

Habgood, Jacob, and Shaaron Ainsworth. “Motivating children to learn effectively: Exploring the value of intrinsic integration in educational games.” The Journal of the Learning Sciences 20.2 (2011): 169-206. Print.

Jin, Huang. “On the Variance of Children’s Toys Value.” Journal of Nanjing Normal University 4.6 (2006): 16 – 22. Print.

Lewis, Tyson. “Education as free use: Giorgio Agamben on studious play, toys, and the inoperative schoolhouse.” Studies in Philosophy and Education 33.2 (2014): 201-214. Print.

Nwokah, Eva. “Historical changes in infant toys 1865–1930.” Diverse Images and Issues of Play 5.8 (2009): 54-73. Print.

Pastor, Esther, Miguel Ojeda, and Álvaro Salas. “Gender representation in advertising of toys in the Christmas period (2009-12).” Comunicar 21.7 (2013): 187-194. Print.

Plowman, Lydia, and Christine Stephen. “Children, play, and computers in pre‐school education.” British Journal of Educational Technology 36.2 (2005): 145-57. Print.

Riktige Leker. “Proper Toys.” Childhood and Consumer Culture 43.7 (2010): 31-35. Print.

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