Objectivity criteria

As a background for analyses and evaluation of the toys mentioned in this book’s research, the following perspectives are examined:

Objectivity criteria



Toy advertising

Attempting to formulate objective criteria for evaluating toys has always been a difficult task. The integrity or falsity of the objective moment is built on individual attitudes to those aspects of the toy the individual observer finds interesting.

In addition, play with a toy is always subject to shifting conditions and different situations which makes so-called objective evaluation questionable. If the observer’s personal and unique attitudes did not make finding the core values of a given toy so difficult, evaluating toys would be a simpler task. Attitudes and approaches to a toy can be coloured by:

  • a lack of knowledgeand insight
  • personal tasteand approach (“fashion”- colour and shape)
  • value normsrelative to the object’s meaning in the game (religious or ideological)
  • material approach (wood or plastic) - approach to “fashion” or zeitgeist (anti-consumerism, ecologyconscious)

“Test” and “evaluation” are problematic concepts as there are many different theoretical and dogmatic attitudes to toys within toy research.

These include:

Over the last few years, these - along with the dogmatic attitude to toys - have been the subject of strong criticism.

The critique was initiated, strongly and ironically, by Bittner (1978:228-241) and Retter (1979:61-69). They state that “play criticism” might just as well adopt the same attitudes as culture criticism when it evaluates books, theatre performances, music, etc. because it goes without saying that dogmatic and ideological observations of children’s play can never be objective.

Within the sphere of institutionalised pedagogical and developmental psychology (especially in day nurseries and kindergartens), there is similarly a very one-dimensional evaluation of what is “a good toy”: It must preferably be described as “motivating to play, encouraging dynamic and happy play” if it is to be purchased by such institutions.

Almqvist (1992) points out that, when evaluating toys, Swedish educational staff consciously and unconsciously choose, reject and purchase particular types of toys of a kind which entails their deciding and directing the games the children can play with them and thus indirectly imprinting/indoctrinating the children by limiting their play/activities. Some researchers even plead for the right to do this, especially Olofsson (1989,1991).

Using the same logic, Kluge (1985:19-23) suggests that every toy ought to be given a “play definition” so that one can see what kind of games can be played with it. Retter (1979:67) suggests that toys ought to be subject to censorship based on “efficiency and importance in play”.

If it is at all possible to formulate objective criteria for evaluating toys, Einsiedler made an attempt (1990:163):

  • observations with several subsequent checks
  • development of object-specific observation categories and evaluation scales
  • comparison of toy product directions (or instructions for use) for different age groups in order to evaluate the group’s abilities for play, their needsand experiences with the toy
  • comparison of play observations (children, time/space, situation)
  • publication of observation results and evaluation scales
  • separate comparisons of toy descriptions and characteristics in order to evaluate observation results



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