Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination
Play is the fundamental way children prepare for the future. When children create a make-believe world, build a tower of blocks, or race a friend to the top of a hill, they acquire social and intellectual abilities needed to be successful in school and adulthood. Nearly all meaningful play includes toys. A single, engaging toy can transform a child's play from simple to symbolic, from repetitive to inventive, from solitary to social.
The Center for Early Childhood Education has a keen interest in studying how young children play. While there is much research on children’s play, few studies have looked at how children interact with toys in their play. To address this research gap, the Center conducts an annual TIMPANI Toy Study under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith. The ongoing empirical study looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys and identifies toys that best engage children in intellectual, creative, and social interactions in preschool classrooms.
Nominate a Toy for an Upcoming Study
Nominations are now closed for the 2013 TIMPANI Toy Study. You may submit a nomination for the 2014 study here (click here for a printable version).
TIMPANI Toy for 2012
The toy that earned the highest ratings in the 2012 study is:
by LEGO Group
Watch a video about the TIMPANI Toy for 2012!
Read a press release about the TIMPANI Toy for 2012.
Toys are selected for inclusion in the TIMPANI study based on recommendations from parents, teachers, and faculty. After an initial screening by the TIMPANI Advisory Committee to determine the appropriateness of recommended toys, each toy to be studied is placed in a preschool classroom for a specified number of days. During that period, a remote video camera records children’s activities for three 30-minute periods during the “free play” part of the day in each of four classrooms. Videos of each toy are studied and rated using a faculty-developed instrument (raters achieved 95% inter-rater reliability on the instrument). Scores are tabulated to determine which toys receive the highest ratings on three subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, and self-expression and imagination. The toy that receives the highest scores on all three subscales is designated the TIMPANI Toy for the year. If two toys receive the same total score, researchers look at subscores and consistency of scores across days of study and across groups of children to determine which toy will be named the TIMPANI Toy for the year.
A major goal of the TIMPANI toy study is to train students to conduct behavioral research. Students have been responsible for conducting preliminary research on toys, piloting the instrument, videotaping toy use, and coding videos. To date, eight students from sociology, psychology, and early childhood education have participated as student researchers. The undergraduate students involved in the 2012 study included:
TIMPANI Toy for 2011: TINKERTOY Construction Set
TIMPANI Toy for 2010: Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs
The TIMPANI toy study does not consider, nor does it test, the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy studied. Neither the Center for Early Childhood Education nor Eastern Connecticut State University is liable for any mishaps related to the use of toys mentioned in study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
2012 TIMPANI Advisory Committee
Claudia Ahern, Preschool Teacher
Patricia Gardner, Preschool Teacher
Anabelitza Lozada, Parent
Dr. Darren Robert, Faculty Member
Amy Tyler, Preschool Teacher
For additional information on the TIMPANI toy study, contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0885.
Other research conducted by the Center for Early Childhood Education