R. Keith Sawyer of Washington University in St. Louis, an expert on creativity and improvisation, said toys can play an important role in a child's education and development, especially for children who haven't reached first grade yet.
"Most of the toys geared at children age 6 and younger are based on an educational theory known as constructivism," Sawyer said in a statement. "Constructivism is the idea that children create their own knowledge by actively participating in the learning process. Playing with toys -- even something as simple as blocks -- allows children to create their own play environment and stimulate their imagination."
However, any kind of toy is good for young children -- as long as it is safe, of course, well-constructed and age-appropriate, Sawyer said.
"Parents can relax a little bit," he said. "There aren't really any bad toys or bad kinds of play. Because of my research on children's improvisation during fantasy play -- which leads to all sorts of social and conversational advancement -- I like to see pretend play that is more loosely structured and more improvisational."
It's not the toy that incites the learning process in a younger child, but the interaction between the child and parents, Sawyer said.
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