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The Importance of Toys

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: What is the importance of games and toys in the development of children?

A: Games and toys certainly don't have to rob kids of their playing alone time. I believe games (the kind you purchase) and toys have little relevance to healthy child development. Play, however, figures prominently in healthy child development.

Play that is child-initiated, child-controlled, and open-ended allows and encourages children to process information and to make sense of their world. Any toys and games that help facilitate this mode of play are a plus. Child development professionals frequently express concern that kids don't spend enough time playing in mixed-age groups. Too much of a child's play time is spent in reactive play (video and computer games) as opposed to creative play. And not enough time is spent playing alone.

Psychologically, kids need and use playing alone as their means of taking stock of their thoughts and emotions. Being bored because adults aren't entertaining them is a common complaint among today's youngsters. Where is the incentive for kids to invent their own creative play if parents feel they must keep them entertained and busy all the time? Jump-starting kids creative play with some ideas can be helpful (for instance, playing treasure hunt outside just when it's starting to get dark). Let them use their imaginations.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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