Usually picking toys for kids is usually just about what’s fun. Toys are however how our children first start interacting with the world and there has been a long debate on just what impact toys can have on our children’s growth. The impact of such things as toys and books is further brought to the light by a new study that suggests that the cognitive stimulation that children receive in the early  has an impact on how the child’s brain will develop in the later years. This study was carried out over a period of twenty years that followed the children from the early years and into adulthood.

The specifics of the study

The study used 64 children who over the course of 20 years provided data about home life and also brain scans. The author of this study was Martha Farah, Director of the center for neuroscience and society at the University of Pennsylvania. Childhood experiences have been known to have an effect on the brain development but the only such evidence was in extreme cases such as when a child was abused or when the child suffered some sort of trauma. In this study, Farah was particularly interested in finding out how normal experiences affected the brain’s development.

The children that participated in these experiments were tracked from the age of four. They were visited by the researchers and certain details about their lives were noted in order to see how much cognitive stimulation they received. Items such as children’s books, educational toys that taught about letters, numbers and colors and their interaction with various musical instruments were noted. Since factors such as nurturing by the parents are usually said to have an effect on the brain development, these too were noted. The survey was repeated when the kids were eight years old and a brain scan was performed when the participants were between the ages of 17 and 19.

The findings of the study

At the end of the study, the researchers found that cognitive stimulation did have an effect on the mental development of children later in life. This development was seen in the cortex of the children when they were in their late teens. Other factors however were found not to have any effect as far as mental development was concerned and this included the nurturance provided by the parents.

This cognitive stimulation is however not effective at any time during the child’s lifetime. In fact it was seen that only the stimulation the child received at the age of four would have an effect on the development of the brain. Cognitive stimulation that was provided at the age of eight did not have any effect on the brain’s development. There has long been a discussion on just how vital the early years of a child are in determining how they will lead their eventual lives. In the words of Farah, this study just cements the idea that the early years of a child may indeed be the most important ones.