Child play expert: Don’t undervalue presents that aid “non-traditional” forms of learning


  • Play expert warns we need to be careful how we define “educational” gifts
  • Over a third of parents say they prioritise entertainment value over educational when buying gifts for their children

New research has revealed that 40% of parents prioritise buying gifts their child will find entertaining ahead of those which have more educational value, but are certain gifts better for learning than they are given credit for?  

The study by online bookseller Book People surveyed 1,100 parents with children under the age of 12, asking them how highly they place educational value when choosing gifts for their children, as well as which items they believe aid child development in a number of areas.

Dr Amanda Gummer is the managing director and founder of Fundamentally Children, an organisation dedicated to helping children develop through play.

Commenting on the study, she said: “We need to be careful how we define ‘educational’ when it comes to children’s gifts and entertainment as there are a lot of skills that children need to learn.

“We should not undervalue the presents that promote other key aspects of child development, such as communication, empathy or confidence.”

When thinking about buying gifts for their children this Christmas, almost a quarter (23%) of parents said the child development value of gifts does not factor into their consumer choices. A further 12% also said their child learns enough at school and deserves a break at home.

Despite a high percentage of parents saying they do not factor in educational value when buying gifts for their children, many believe items that may not be seen as traditionally ‘educational’ can benefit child development.


Of the products they believe aid their child’s development of communication and language skills, more than half (51%) of parents think fictional books foster this growth, with a further 35% believing Disney movies help children develop these key skills.

In terms of personal, social and emotional development, 31% of parents believe outdoor toys and games contribute towards this growth, while 23% say colouring books aid this development.

As well as this, 15% of parents feel smartphones and tablets help develop children’s understanding of the world, and 20% think instructional books, such as Minecraft guides, encourage this development.

Speaking of his choice to buy gifts with an educational value, James Longhurst, whose son is four years old, commented: “As a parent I know how annoying it can be when your children get lots of plastic toys for Christmas that rarely get played with and are a nightmare to store around the house. That’s why we always try and buy gifts for our friends and families children that have some educational value and can be used as a family.

“Books, games and puzzles are our preferred gift of choice because we love spending time playing and reading as a family and know that our friends do too.”

Claudia Mody, children’s buying director at Book People, added: “Buying the right gifts for your children is a difficult task, especially when you’re trying to strike a balance between gifts your child will find entertaining and those that have educational merit.

“Many parents may not realise the gifts they’re buying for their children can benefit development. Ultimately, all gifts can have educational worth, whether it’s helping children to develop key language skills through reading Disney books, or growing their knowledge of the world through popular games such as Minecraft.”


To read the full interview with children’s play expert Dr Amanda Gummer, please visit: The Book People : Educational Childrens Gifts Parents And Experts Opinions


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from The Leadership Factor. Total sample size was 1,100 adults.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th-27th October 2016. The survey was carried out online.

About The Book People

With over 25 years of heritage, Book People is the country’s favourite direct bookseller.

Founded on the principle of making books available to everyone at unbelievable prices, Book People has the unique advantage of offering the knowledge of independent booksellers along with a range competitive with online giants. Through its fleet of local booksellers, mail-order catalogue and award-winning website, Book People’s aim is to give customers the service they deserve by making shopping for books both enjoyable and convenient. But what really sets Book People apart from the rest is its team of book experts, who use their years of knowledge and experience to select an extensive range of hand-picked favourites, which allow millions of customers to enjoy savings of up to 75% off RRP.

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