It has been noted by researchers that, "Children as young as 18 months display sex-stereotyped toy choices". When eye movement is tracked in young infants, infant girls show a visual preference for a doll over a toy truck (d > 1.0). Boys showed no preference for the truck over the doll. However, they did fixate on the truck more than the girls (d = .78). This small study suggests that even before any self-awareness of gender identity has emerged, children already prefer sex-typical toys. These differences in toy choice are well established within the child by the age of three.
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"Age compression" is a toy industry term that describes the modern trend of children moving through play stages faster than they did in the past. Children have a desire to progress to more complex toys at a faster pace, girls in particular. Barbie dolls, for example, were once marketed to girls around 8 years old but have been found to be more popular in recent years with girls around 3 years old. The packaging for the dolls labels them appropriate for ages 3 and up. Boys, in contrast, apparently enjoy toys and games over a longer timespan, gravitating towards toys that meet their interest in assembling and disassembling mechanical toys, and toys that "move fast and things that fight". An industry executive points out that girls have entered the "tween" phase by the time they are 8 years old and want non-traditional toys, whereas boys have been maintaining an interest in traditional toys until they are 12 years old, meaning the traditional toy industry holds onto their boy customers for 50% longer than their girl customers.
Promotional toys can fall into any of the other toy categories; for example they can be dolls or action figures based on the characters of movies or professional athletes, or they can be balls, yo-yos, and lunch boxes with logos on them. Sometimes they are given away for free as a form of advertising. Model aircraft are often toys that are used by airlines to promote their brand, just as toy cars and trucks and model trains are used by trucking, railroad and other companies as well. Many food manufacturers run promotions where a toy is included with the main product as a prize. Toys are also used as premiums, where consumers redeem proofs of purchase from a product and pay shipping and handling fees to get the toy. Some people go to great lengths to collect these sorts of promotional toys.
The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that the future architect should play at building houses as a child. A construction set is a collection of separate pieces that can be joined together to create models. Popular models to make include cars, spaceships, and houses. The things that are built are sometimes used as toys once completed, but generally speaking, the object is to build things of one's own design, and old models often are broken up and the pieces reused in new models.
Pretend play is an essential part of a well-rounded childhood, helping kids develop intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. By the age of three, your children will naturally begin to engage in pretend play, and you can ensure this activity is safe and rewarding by providing them with a good selection of age-appropriate toys. Make-believe must-haves include toy kitchens and play workshops, costumes, musical instruments and active toys like blasters and water guns. As your kids spend more time and energy in pretend worlds, their understanding of the real world will grow, and the skills they acquire will benefit them for a lifetime.