Literature on and studies of toys for children - “what we think children ought to play with” and what can stimulate their general development - are divided (by Almqvist (Children and Toys, A Bibliography, 1989) into 5 groups:
Toys and children’s general development
Toys and cognitive and social development
Toys and socialisation
Toys’ construction and play appeal
Toys for handicapped children
Training programmes for use with special toys
The toy library, toy classifications and collection systems
Toys as educational equipment and instruments generally
Toys as educational equipment
Toys as ethnographic data and cultural instruments
Dolls and doll accessories:
For use in teaching
For use in play therapy and treatment
What the experts recommend as stimulating and developmental toys is one thing: what children choose to play with is quite another.
There are regrettably no overviews over what toys children own at different ages and in different countries or cultures - and what they play with.
The reason for this is the lack of research but also the fact that there are great cultural differences in attitudes to toys generally - doubt whether toys are valuable to children - doubt as to what extent too many toys lead to children generally losing the comprehension dimension - doubt as to how far and when children can abstract from the familiar to the cognitive, etc.
As the supply of toys in the Western world is so colossal and incalculable, especially where diffuse toys and “craze” toys are concerned, it is not difficult to imagine what toys are owned by children at different ages but we cannot begin to find out whether they actually play with any of them.
Roger Pinon, the pioneering founder of modern toy research, formulated the first basic definitions and theses concerning toys’ function, degree of mimicry, significance, limitation and qualities and spoke about this dilemma (1958:287):
“Innumerable problems with production and distribution, with style and technology, with the relation to general psychology, society, racial issues, with religion, Art and culture, not to mention the market, medicine and upbringing, possibly make the study of toys a new, doubtless significant topic which is not easy to tackle if one doesn’t first apologise for only being able to tackle the topic superficially and imperfectly due to the current level of research.”