The toys children play with can have a profound impact on their development

How toy trains can be key to helping children's development

The type of toys children play with can have a profound effect on their success in adult life, according to an academic report. Dr. Jacqueline Harding, a child behavioural expert, said repetitive childhood play can provide a long-lasting memory imprint, and have the potential to subconsciously steer their career path.

And they can help develop and deepen problem-solving abilities, and improve imagination and creativity.

Dr. Harding explained how joy in early life from playing with toys can become a strong driver in later life decisions.

It follows research of 1,000 parents, of 0-7 year olds, which found 75 percent buy toys they hope will contribute towards their child’s future success.

More than half (51 percent) deem their child’s playthings very important to developing their critical skills, which will be crucial in everyday life.

The study was commissioned by Mattel, creators of Thomas & Friends, which has released a white paper from King’s College, London, revealing the social and cognitive benefits of train play for children.

Dr. Jacqueline Harding said: “Favourite toys tend to be played with almost every day, and it is this repetitive act that can leave an imprint on the young, developing brain.

“So, it almost goes without saying that the playthings young children engage with on a regular basis can have a long-term effect, and may even subconsciously steer them in a particular career direction.

“Of course, this is hard to prove beyond doubt, as there are so many other factors involved – but taking toys seriously is a good idea, as children spend so much time engaging with them, and choosing wisely according to their individual interests can pay real dividends.”

Playing with toy trains provides children with opportunities to develop and practice problem-solving abilities

Dr. Salim Hashmi, King’s College psychology lecturer

The biggest benefit parents believe children get from toys when it comes to improving critical skills is the improvement in their fine motor skills (68 percent).

Almost as many (67 percent) said it was how toys drive imagination and creativity, while 63 percent think toys can help with problem-solving skills.

And 86 percent went as far as saying they think toys can have a large or moderate impact on improving a child’s chances of a successful career, in the future.

But when it comes to actually choosing toys for their children, the top priority is that they are age-appropriate (59 percent).

Others want to ensure the toy is safe (55 percent), or more than its perceived educational value (47 percent).

It also emerged 58 percent have particular brands or toy lines they turn specifically for their developmental value.

But 21 percent fear their little ones don’t play with educational toys as much as they’d like, according to the data.

Dr. Harding added: “One astounding insight is that, at two years of age, children engage in the same level of mental work as adults whilst engaged in imaginative play.

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“It is well established that imaginary play and creative pursuits offer up a wealth of surprising benefits, that have exciting biological and neurological benefits for children and adults.

“During childhood, the brain is known to be particularly absorbent – this is known as “neuroplasticity”.

“In other words, it is easier to learn aspects of life – so not only does play yield a significant benefit during childhood itself, but also in later adult life.”

It comes after a separate white paper by Dr. Salim Hashmi, a researcher from King’s College, reviewed more than 1,600 scientific research papers to explore the advantages of playing with toy trains.

One of the primary benefits Dr. Hashmi identified was children who play with toy trains, can develop better thinking and social skills, allowing them to learn and practice collaboration, cooperation, and social understanding while interacting with others.

His study also highlighted how playing with toy trains allows children to develop and refine essential thinking skills, contributing to their problem-solving abilities.

Talking about his research for Thomas & Friends, Dr. Hashmi said: “Constructing tracks, arranging train cars, envisioning scenarios, and enacting them during train play, can stimulate cognitive development and enhance critical thinking, spatial analysis, and decision-making skills.

“Collaborative play with toy trains could help encourage teamwork, negotiation, and collaboration, as children share resources, ideas, and play together.

“Additionally, playing with toy trains provides children with opportunities to develop and practice problem-solving abilities. Overall, train play is an excellent way for children to develop key skills.”

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