NBC’s Today recently featured Hannah Knott, MS, CCLS, assistant professor in Azusa Pacific University’s Department of Psychology, in an online story about dinosaur toys for children. Knott offered her expertise on why parents should let their kids play with toys that pique their imagination while also making a positive impact on their educational development.
“Studies have shown that children learn more when they enjoy the process,” Knott said. “Having fun or being excited about what you’re learning increases neuron activity. When you enjoy something you’re doing, your brain is producing more oxytocin, more dopamine, more norepinephrine, and those are related to motivation, attention, and memory.”
According to Knott, this age is a pivotal time in childhood development. Playing with toys such as dinosaurs helps children get along and grow in social-emotional learning, increasing cooperation, boundaries, and reciprocity.
“Around ages three to four, children tend to develop intense specific interests. This is the age when imagination-based play really takes off,” Knott said. “At this age, children are still figuring out how to distinguish reality from fantasy; what is real and what’s my imagination? When the line between fantasy and reality is a bit blurred in your developing mind, something as cool as a dinosaur becomes that much more fascinating.”
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