Children have a lot to learn. In our earliest years of life, we’re all busy soaking up the world around us — experiencing new sights, smells, colors, and tastes and learning how to master language and movement. Everything is new, and our minds are sponges, absorbing floods of information from our environment.
Research suggests that during this stage of rapid learning early in life, toys can be crucial tools that help children develop the skills they need to grow and thrive. In today’s post, we’re exploring the science behind the power of play and how toys can affect a child’s development. Read on to learn more, and to empower the child in your life to learn and grow, sign up for one of Joynergy’s monthly toy subscription boxes!
The Human Brain is Ever-Changing
Our brain tissue contains about 100 billion nerve cells called neurons. These neurons are constantly communicating with each other and with other nerve cells throughout the body to control our movement and process sensory information, learning, memory, and emotions. Messages are sent along neural pathways, one neuron firing a synaptic signal to the next, and the more often any one neural path is trafficked, the stronger and more efficient those internal connections become.
This phenomenon is called ‘neuroplasticity:’ our brains’ ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections. Essentially, it is our brains’ ability to change.
This is the foundation of all learning and development.
Children Learn Fast
Although our brains are neuroplastic at every age, children’s brains are particularly active. They are constantly evolving in response to the world around them. This is because the young brain hasn’t formed any strong neural pathways yet — they take in everything, process irrelevant information, and form neural connections that are virtually useless. As they grow, some synaptic connections will be used more than others, and pathways that are not used will weaken and eventually be discarded in a process called ‘synaptic pruning.’
By the time we reach adulthood, our brains have used this “use it or lose it” system to settle into patterns and become efficient information-processing machines. We can ignore irrelevant information, concentrate on specific tasks, use muscle memory, and draw from previous experiences to guide our actions. But the developing brain of a baby or toddler is still learning how to do all this. Their brains have a much higher number of connections happening at any given moment, and they use every experience to learn at a fast rate.
Critical Periods of Learning
At certain ages, humans go through “critical periods” of learning during which they master specific skills. For example, the critical period for learning how to process vision happens extremely early, in the first several months of life. The critical period for language learning is thought to run from birth to around age 12.
Although some skills can be developed later in life, many foundational abilities are important to learn in their respective critical periods. It is far easier to master them at a young age while the brain is more elastic.
Children Are Impressionable
With their spongy brains and ability to take in huge amounts of information, children are extremely impressionable in their early years. Early life experiences can have significant, lasting effects on cognitive development. This is why it’s vital to maximize their exposure to learning opportunities and experiences early on.
Toys Encourage Cognitive DevelopmentSo how do toys come into play?
Researchers sometimes compare children to tiny scientists as they play with toys. They are being exposed to new things, trying to solve problems, testing ideas, and evaluating results. They learn to cope with frustration, improve and improvise, and give vocal expression to thoughts and feelings. Every new experience fires new brain synapses, and toys give children the opportunity to begin experimenting and strengthening their most important neural pathways. This process is huge for the healthy development of both motor and cognitive skills.
Some specific examples include:
- Colorful toys can help to develop vision
- Rattles and stuffed animals can help develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination
- Shape sorting toys can help develop spatial reasoning
- Keyboards and musical toys can help develop music and (closely-related) language skills
- Building blocks can introduce children to math and help them learn counting
- Play-dough can encourage creativity and help kids master motor skills
- Toys of all kinds can help to expand a child’s imagination and creativity
- Learning how to share toys with others teaches skills in social interaction and cooperation
In short, toys are powerful tools to promote problem-solving, intellectual development, social interaction, and creative expression. The young mind needs toys.
Empower Your Child With Monthly Toy Subscription Boxes!At Joynergy, we’re passionate about helping children learn and grow through the power of play. That’s why we’re proud to offer the very best subscription boxes for kids, bringing a selection of toys to your doorstep each month!
We have monthly toy boxes for kids of all interests and age ranges, from toddler toy boxes to curated subscription boxes for boys and girls up to age 6. With original and themed options available, you can choose the plan that works best for your family to encourage natural growth and development from an early age.
The child in your life is sure to be excited to get a box of toys in the mail every month, and you can watch them grow and thrive as they learn through play!
Contact us to learn more or to sign up for a children’s subscription box this month!