The Importance of Learn through Play

Written by Jacqui Gilchrist


I am no expert when it comes to Toys but I have had the privilege to assist many customers with finding the ideal toy to suit their childs needs in my own toy store.

As the toy store is approaching it’s second anniversary I started asking myself some serious questions.

Here I share with you my personal Q’s and A’s…

Do I love my job?

Yes I do! But not because of the obvious things like testing toys and being in a really awesome and fun environment.

I love what I do because of what I learn daily in this business.

As a mum of 4 with children aged from 11 months to 9 years I often wonder what makes our children want to play with toys and why are they not just happy to watch the TV or in mums case an episode of Real Housewives of Melbourne or Call the Midwife (this depending on my mood for either the dramatic over the top craziness of a woman having a baby or dramatic over the top women acting like babies).

The curious minds of our wee little bairns is much more than sitting them in front of the television staring wide eyed at 4 people dancing and singing in bright coloured skivvys, or a sheep that can’t speak but goes to school with text books and manages to annoy all his other farm animal school mates.

This “curiosity” starts from birth and continues to grow as our children do.

As their senses develop so does the need for exploration.

Bright coloured objects, ones that flash, ones that don’t, some make noise, others move or roll, then there are those that feel soft as pillows or has sharp edges.


But what are toys?

If I had a dollar for each time an adult walked into my store saying “I wish I was a kid again”

We never lose our emotions or the momories of those emotions.

Where we often forget some events in our lives for many different reasons, we almost always remember those very little moments from our childhoods like the time I was two and I had the measles and my Grandma came to visit me with a new Mr Men toy (Mr Strong to be precise, and yes I do remember everything about that toy) that walked when wound up.

This uber skill of remembering things as a child may all well be because of the innocence of a child’s mind that just wants to explore and soak up everything about that toy or moment. What they learn about a toy stays with them and is then transferred into “reusable” knowledge for the next toy or activity that the child engages in.

Do I really believe that children learn through play?

Yes 100% I do!

More and more kindergartens and primary schools in Western Australia have adopted the learn through play philosophy which speaks volumes for our education system.

I have seen it with my own children and I (OK maybe a little biased here, I know!) have seen how my littlies take on activities like little Einsteins. They are confident and want to know more. Their little eyes widen with excitement when Mr Maker is on the telly making a Spooky Castle with toilet roll cylinders and paint (OK possibly boring to us adults and cue the whole “mum can we make this” carry on as as mum’s eye’s roll as she heads over to the art and craft box aka the milk crate in the shed).

But all of this energy of wanting to learn and do more stems from those same emotions and experiences of playing with toys.

Simple you say?

Well not quite.

What toy is suitable for our child to learn from?

Simply handing just any old or same old toy to a child and expecting them to learn something is like handing a bad meal to a customer in a restaurant who then complains and returns it to the kitchen to then have you replace it with another bad meal hoping they will learn to love it.

Toys as we know come in all shapes and sizes. I for one love toys that have all the bells and whistles. Like those old fashioned hand made dolls houses that had minitaure Chesterfield Sofas and tiny bone china tea sets (Downton Abbey nano scale).

Variety and relevance is key to getting the balance right when it comes to giving your child the best in toys. It’s hard to get that balance right.

And before you say it I will stop you there my friend.

It does not have to be expensive to mix it up and keep toys relevant and varied.

I grew up in a home where asking for more than one Barbie Doll was met with stares of “do we look like we’ve won Lotto?”.

Remember these few golden rules when selecting the right toy for your child or someone elses.

  • Is it age appropriate?  – We all now that the majority of toy packaging has an age suggestion on the box. This is just a suggestion as you need to gauge what level your childs play ability is at. Often a 2+ toy is not as stimulating to your child as a 3+ toy would be and that is unfortunately due to a gap in the skill level guidelines for toys in those countries that they are either designed or made in or both. Please note however that there will always be a safety warning on the packinging which will clearly highlight if a toy is not safe for a child under three years of age. You will usually see a little circle with a little face on it and the number 3 with a stike though it. Some may not have this symbol but will have it written on the box. Please do not ignore saftey warnings as it is there to protect your child.
  • Sounds – Children especially 6 months and over love noisy toys. A few of those “noisy” toys are a must and it aids with rhythym which is a bonus. Try selecting Maraccas or small castanets as a musical toy option.
  • Colours and lights – varied colours help stimulate childrens minds at any age. But as  as babies see a little differently to their older counter parts in the early days of their lives, sticking to primary single colours or black and white is a good start. Light up toys are great for those early days but can be costly especially when having to replace batteries so a more subtle colour changing night light with soft hues can be just as stimulating. That way you dont need to spend too much on a light up toy that wont be used again. The night light will be used often and longer.
  • Shapes  – Shape sorting  and stacking toys can assist with cognitive skills and hand eye coordination.
  • Size – Big is best? I don’t think so! Some of the most fun toys are either pocket sized or slightly larger. Not all big things can be easily transported so having those smaller toys can be handy to take along with you when travelling.
  • Solo or More – Some toys call for more than one commander in the control centre. Toys that can involve two or more children is a great addition to your childs toy collection for those times where sibling play is needed or little friends come to visit. Toys that call for more than one participant can aid your child with those all important sharing and social behaviors. It does’t have to be too technical, perhaps just a fishing toy with two rods.
  • Role Pay – It’s funny how as adults we wish we could be young again and on the other hand our kids wish they were grown up like us! Dress ups, pretend food or toy versions of lawmovers, and little clotheslines are just ways our kids can assert their grown up side. Let them get involved in our daily chores with their toys. A real confidence boost for them for sure.

End note

Well there you have it. Some of my insights about toys.

Just like you I am learning about these curious little beings aka our children!

I look forward to sharing more about the world of toys with you.

More to come. See you back here soon.