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.
Many countries have passed safety standards limiting the types of toys that can be sold. Most of these seek to limit potential hazards, such as choking or fire hazards that could cause injury. Children, especially very small ones, often put toys into their mouths, so the materials used to make a toy are regulated to prevent poisoning. Materials are also regulated to prevent fire hazards. Children have not yet learned to judge what is safe and what is dangerous, and parents do not always think of all possible situations, so such warnings and regulations are important on toys.
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.