Mathematical formula predicts the perfect toy

A British psychologist has come up with a mathematical formula to help parents chose the toy that best matches their child's nature and their wallet's cash level.
A British psychologist has come up with a mathematical formula to help parents choose the toy that best matches their child's nature and their wallet's cash level.

Cliff Arnall was asked to devise the formula by British toy company Worlds Apart. The company had sponsored a survey that found a majority of youngsters received Christmas presents they didn't like or didn't play with.

"For a number of years now people have been saying, particularly parents of younger children, that a lot of the toys they buy end up not lasting too long," said Arnall in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's As It Happens.

Arnall, who has also developed mathematical formulas to predict the happiest day of the year (June 19) and the most depressing day of the year, (Jan. 24), took six basic criteria into consideration to come up with the best toy for your child.

Each criterion was assigned a letter and parents could plug in a number between one and five.

  • PI: Does the child prefer individual play?
  • PO: What is the child's ability to play with others?
  • CR: Does the toy stimulate a number of senses?
  • S: Does the toy promote social activity?
  • U: Can a child play with the toy all year around? Is it easy to store and easy to transport?
  • H: Is the toy robust enough to be handed down. Will it still be relevant for younger siblings in years to follow?

Then, and this is where a calculator comes in handy, you add all these numbers up, and then add them to (T multiplied by L), where T is the estimated number of hours the child will play with the toy in a week, and L is the number of months the toy will likely be played with.

That number is then divided by the square root of C, where C is the cost of the toy.

Even with a calculator, it's not so easy. The Worlds Apart toy company has a website where parents can simply plug in their numbers and get the answer with a few clicks.

A rating of 40 is considered a very good score, said Arnall. The simplest toys, like playing cards, tend to score highest. And a score will drop sharply if a toy is expensive.

Arnall is hoping the mathematical formula reduces the stress of gift buying, rather than raising it, as can happen when people are forced to figure out math.

"It's really to help discriminate between toys and give parents an opportunity to take a step back and have a think about their child, matching up a toy that's going to meet the needs of their children rather than some very complex and irritating formula," he said.