NEW YORK — A new study shows that children who receive more toy toys and dolls in their preschool years have more difficulty recognizing the different kinds of objects they see and feel in their surroundings.
The findings, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, suggest that preschoolers who receive a variety of toys and doll types in their childhood are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that often accompanies the disorder.
The research, which is being conducted at the University of Iowa’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Basic Research.
It found that preschooler children who received toys in addition to a variety that included toys like dolls and stuffed animals also received more toys that children perceive as being appropriate for them to play with and interact with.
The researchers hypothesized that children whose preschool environment contained toys that were appropriate for their age, age range and socialization status would be more likely than others to develop ADHD.
The study also found that children of color were less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than white children.
The results of the study were consistent with previous research that has linked ADHD to toys and toys with toys, said study lead author Erin D. Haney, a psychologist at the university’s Johnson Center for the Developmental Disabilities.
“Our findings suggest that there may be some underlying neurobiological basis for why these preschoolers were more likely in the middle,” she said.
“There are certain characteristics that children that are very early in the developmental cycle are more apt to develop,” she added.
Haney, who is a developmental psychologist at New York University-Newark, noted that she and her colleagues have conducted similar studies of children’s play behaviors in preschoolers with ADHD, and found that, while the preschoolers tended to have less playtime in their first years of life, their playtime increased over time.
The findings could help determine how to help preschoolers better manage their ADHD symptoms, Haney said.
The study was based on data collected between July 2014 and December 2016, which included the assessment of 5,788 preschoolers, including 7,000 children ages 3-5.
The children were then evaluated by parents or teachers and asked to rate their experiences of the toy and doll categories that were used in the preschool program.
The preschoolers participating in the study also completed a structured test measuring their ability to identify objects and to distinguish their own and others’ objects.
The test included tasks that involved identifying objects, recognizing objects and categorizing objects into different categories.
The more preschoolers reported on the preschool toy categories that they had seen in the previous year, the more accurate they were at identifying objects.
And children who had a higher rate of accurate object identification were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADH) as children who were less successful at this task.
“When we are able to better understand how children develop, we can use that to improve the care and carers and the families of children with ADHD,” said Haney.
The next step in the research will be to examine how different toy types and types of toys can be used to help children develop better cognitive skills and to help them develop better social skills.
The authors say more research is needed to understand how preschoolers develop and improve the cognitive skills needed to successfully use toys and interact safely with others.
For more information about ADHD, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website.