Interactive object play with adults and peers benefits children’s social development. Object play also contributes to cognitive development. When children play with educational toys they learn about the nature of objects, learn to think creatively, they develop problem-solving skills and foundational skills for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
When children play with objects they have an opportunity to work alone or be more social and work together with other children. Playing with objects also helps children improve their hand eye co-ordination. They explore new concepts, practice emerging skills, and reinforce skills already mastered. They develop fine motor practice. They learn about classifying, sorting, predicting, problem solving, and analysing results. They develop their knowledge of the world around them using real objects and concrete examples. They learn how to learn.
- Playing with objects is present from a very young age, as soon as an infant is able to grasp and hold on to an object. Infants investigate or explore the object by mouthing, biting, rotating whilst looking, rubbing, stroking, hitting or dropping the object. This is referred to as “sensory-motor play”.
- Toddlers between the ages of eighteen to twenty-four months are able to arrange objects, which progresses to being able to sort and classify.
- Children aged four are able to build, make and construct using different objects. When children play with objects, they typically develop a story or talk to themselves as they play. Children’s “private speech” helps them to maintain their attention, keep goals in mind, make strategic choices, as well as regulate themselves. Children’s perseverance is developed through this process.