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TIMPANI Research Reveals Best Toy for Children

Written by Dwight Bachman

TIMPANI TOY IN WOODEN BOX.JPGWillimantic, Conn --  Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs, a basic toy created by Wilton, CT-based Melissa and Doug, LLC, has been named the 2010 best Toy to Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination (TIMPANI). The research results of the 2010 TIMPANI Toy Study were announced on Wednesday, Nov. 17, by faculty and student researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE).


The high-scoring Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs toy set includes a variety of painted wooden vehicles, including a fire truck and ambulance. It also includes 10 common traffic signs that children may be familiar with, such as a stop sign. TIMPANI researchers noted that children playing with the toy engaged in high levels of language and social interaction. Children also exhibited unexpected creative play, even using the container that the vehicles came in to construct garages and bridges.

timpani trawick speaking.JPG"The results of this study should give pause to parents and teachers who believe that children today need high-tech, complex toys in order to learn," said Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, the Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education at Eastern. He is the principal investigator of the TIMPANI toy study, and also engaged Eastern students in the research project.

"This simple, beautiful, wooden toy set engaged children in almost every type of play behavior that is useful for development: solving problems, pretending, communicating with peers and staying engaged for long periods," said Trawick-Smith. He previously had announced the study findings at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children Anaheim, CA, last week.

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"This first Annual TIMPANI Toy Study is intended to identify toys that best promote the intellectual, social and creative development of children," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez.  "I applaud Professor Trawick-Smith and his students for this ground-breaking research.  I cannot think of a more important research field than early childhood education, for the work our faculty and students are doing to build strong foundations for young children will last a lifetime." 

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Parents, teachers, faculty and students at Eastern screened and selected several toys, placed them in a preschool classroom, and videotaped how children interacted with the toy. The toys were rated using a scientific instrument developed by faculty. Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs came out on top.

The TIMPANI Toy Study will be an annual empirical study that looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys to examine which toys best promote children's development in three areas: thinking and learning; social interaction and cooperation; and self-expression and imaginative play. timpani student.JPG   In addition to providing useful information to parents and teachers about toys, the TIMPANI Toy Study provides opportunities for Eastern students to participate in research. "It was very interesting to see that such a simple toy made such a big difference in the classroom," said Eliza Welling, a senior from Marlborough majoring in sociology who also is pursuing certification in early childhood education. "You don't, as a teacher, have to include all these high-end toys that everyone is saying are amazing. Letting students use their imagination and create their own world is actually more important."

 Other students participating in the research project included Heather Russell, a psychology and early childhood education major from Lisbon who graduated in 2009; Huihui Yu, a graduate student from Mansfield majoring in early childhood education; Ashlee Marouski, a graduate student from Mansfield majoring in early childhood education; and Niloufar Rezai; a graduate student from Manchester majoring in early childhood education.

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study, contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0885 or visit


The TIMPANI Toy Study did not consider, nor did it test the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy tested. 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 the study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


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