January 6, 2016
Children's play is their work; it's crucial to their development. That heightens the impact of our choices about their toys, the tools of their trade. By now, you may have noticed that there are holiday gifts you would like to return. A recent study on toys and language development might help you decide which ones to keep. The study reveals that the toys advertised as encouraging language development decrease the amount of verbal interaction between a child and adults. When parents see children engaged with an electronic gadget, they leave them alone, especially if the gadget is touted as supporting language development. But research shows that is not the case. Imagine the difference in quality between the voice of an electronic toy that speaks when the child pushes a button and the voice of a parent narrating life as it happens. Yes, in a parent's busy life, the child's attention on a gadget might seem like the way to engage the child and free the parent, but don't fool yourself, it will not enhance language development. According to Joan Almon of the Alliance of Childhood, "a good toy is 90% child, 10% toy." Hence, the child develops while playing with a good toy. With the typical electronic toy, it's 90% toy and 10% child, so the child's participation and subsequent development is diminished. Read the study in JAMA Pediatrics, then conduct your own experiments. Observe children playing with traditional toys and with electronic ones, then draw your own conclusions and hope you can find the gift receipts that will allow you to return the toys that do not support your child's development.