Faculty and student researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) have announced the results of the 2013 TIMPANI toy study. Two toys tied this year, both receiving the highest ratings of all toys studied: Magna-Tiles by Valtech, LLC, and My First Railway by Brio. Study findings were announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and at a press conference on Eastern's campus on December 4th.
The TIMPANI toy study is an annual empirical study that looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys. Each year, nominated toys are placed in preschool classrooms and videotaped using remote cameras. Researchers use a scientific instrument to determine which toys best promote children's development in three areas: thinking and learning, social interaction and cooperation, and self-expression and imaginative play.
The 2013 study marks the fifth year that the CECE has studied toys, and trends suggest that basic, open-ended toys seem to inspire the highest levels of play. According to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, "The high-scoring toys tend to be fairly simple toys that are not too realistic, and they don't have a lot of gadgetry or computer chips. They are often the ones we played with when we were growing up. In addition, construction toys have done very well in our studies over the past five years. They tend to inspire a lot of problem-solving as children figure out how to construct different objects, but we also see a fair amount of pretend play and social interaction."
In addition to providing useful information to parents and teachers about toys, the TIMPANI toy study provides opportunities for a number of Eastern Connecticut State University students to participate in research. Undergraduate students Chamari Davis and Cassie Savalli were responsible for conducting videotaping for the study, coding footage, and helping to analyze the results. They also co-presented the results at the NAEYC conference with Dr. Trawick-Smith and CECE Program Coordinator Julia DeLapp on November 22nd.
For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study, and to watch a video of children playing with toys studied, visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani.html
12/5/13 update: See TV news coverage of this story at http://www.wtnh.com/news/windham-cty/study-on-how-children-play-with-toys
Hear researchers discuss what makes a good toy on the radio: http://www.wili-am.com/images/audio/ecsu_tympani_toy_study_dec_5_2013.wma
Read story in the Norwich Bulletin: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20131204/NEWS/131209801/10283/NEWS
12/11/13 update: Read Dec. 10 editorial in the Norwich Bulletin: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20131210/OPINION/131219995/10309/OPINION
12/13/13 update: Read New Yorker article about the influence of STEM-oriented toys that includes interview with TIMPANI researcher Jeffrey Trawick-Smith: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2013/12/can-toys-help-create-future-engineers.html