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Reliability and Validity of an Instrument to Measure

the Effects of Toys on the Cognitive, Creative, and Social Behaviors

of Preschool Children


Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Heather Russell, and Dr. Sudha Swaminathan

Although previous research has explored the effects of various environmental influences on young children's play, the influence of toys has rarely been examined. This paucity of toy studies is due to a lack of a scientifically-constructed observation system to evaluate the impact of play materials across developmental domains. The purpose of this study was to develop and test the reliability and validity of such an instrument. An 8-item, 5-point rating system was constructed, based on previous toy research. To establish inter-rater reliability, two researchers independently used the instrument to rate the effects of 23 toys on the spontaneous play of sixteen preschool children. There was a high level of agreement between observers (r = .81 to .88, across items). A factor analysis was conducted to identify clusters of items that measure like dimensions of play effects; three distinct factors were identified: thinking/learning, creativity/imagination, and social interaction. To establish validity, the instrument was used to rate 5 common toys that could be predicted, based on earlier work, to have distinct influences on play. The instrument was found to discriminate among these toys in ways that are consistent with previous research and that make theoretical sense. The uses of this instrument in both future research and classroom practice are discussed.

See more Previous Studies

  • Trawick-Smith, J., Russell, H., & Swaminathan, S. (2011). Measuring the effects of toys on the problem-solving, creative and social behaviours of preschool children. Early Child Development and Care, 181(7), 909-927.