I always find it interesting when an old favourite toy from the play room becomes popular with a new group of children. Many of the toys once belonged to my own children and are no longer available in stores. There are no commercials on TV to entice the children to want to play with these toys.
With a mixed age group in Family Childcare often the younger children develop a preference for certain toys based on their observations of the older children at play – a learned behaviour. The younger children use the toys the same way the older children use the toys. The toy itself is not necessarily the attraction – the younger children just want to be with/like the older ones.
There are some items that one or two children may love but others never show much interest in. Of course, there are often items that are popular simply because someone else wants it. These items are rarely actually ever played with – just hoarded for the sole purpose of being in control.
Some toys are loved by many of the children – different groups, various ages, over long periods of time. These are the toys that interest me the most. Why are they so popular? One such toy is this little set of 25 year old blocks;
Every time the Duplo/Mega blocks are out in the play room there will be at least one child in the group who will choose these nine little blocks every time they enter the room. Of all the blocks in the bin the child/children prefer these ones. Sometimes just one particular one – like ‘the puppy’ – which is the current favorite for this toddler.
Yet many children have never even attempted to put the blocks together create the characters. They don’t seem to care or even notice that there are three feet blocks, three body blocks and three head blocks that together can form 12 different characters. Yet, of all the blocks in the bin these nine are almost always chosen first. Some children never even play with any of the other blocks – just the white ones or none.
There are other people/animal toys in the block bin and other areas in the room but they are not as popular. There are other ‘rare’ blocks – there are only a few black or purple blocks compared to the plentiful red, yellow, blue or green ones yet only the occasional child will specifically seek out the other rare ones. There are other puzzle/matching toys throughout the playroom – they don’t engage any of the children the way these nine little white blocks do.
I regularly rotate the toys in and out of the playroom. Two of the children in my current preschool group have never seen these blocks before and have not been influenced by the older children yet they still choose the little white blocks first. Why?
I may never know the reason these toys are so popular. There may be a different reason for each child. I do know that I will continue to enjoy observing the children as they explore and make discoveries. I will continue to wonder why. I will continue to be amazed.