Researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Early Childhood Education have announced the results of the first annual TIMPANI Toy Study. The toy receiving the highest ratings of all toys studied this year was "Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs" by Melissa & Doug, LLC. 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 November 17th.
According to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, "The results of this study might give pause to parents and teachers who believe that children today need high-tech, complex toys in order to learn. This simple, beautiful, wooden toy set engaged children in almost every type of play behavior that is useful for development: solving problems, pretending, communicating with peers, and staying engaged for long periods."
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 high-scoring Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs toy set includes a variety of painted wooden vehicles, including a fire truck and ambulance. It also includes 10 common traffic signs that children may be familiar with, such as a stop sign. Researchers noted that children playing with the toy engaged in high levels of language and social interaction. Children also exhibited unexpected creative play, even using the container that the vehicles came in to construct garages and bridges.
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. Sociology/early childhood education student Liza Welling noted what she learned as a student researcher: "It was very interesting to see that such a simple toy made such a big difference in the classroom. You don't, as a teacher, have to include all these high end toys that everyone is saying are amazing...letting students use their imagination and create their own world is actually more important."
For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study and to watch a video illustrating how children played with the toy, visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani.html.