Educational Toys(redux)

In the words of the immortal Paul Simon, “I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude…”  In playing with your child–especially your toddler–there is much more learning that takes place in the interaction between child and parent/playmate than child/toy.  I have spoken about this just recently.  

Regarding this important topic I wanted to share some information that just came to my attention.  Here is a study from JAMA Pediatrics regarding language acquisition in electronic vs simple, old fashioned toys.  If you want, just focus on the discussion.  Here is an editorial on the same subject.

What is cool about the study is that, while it was small (only about 27 families, all white and middle class) it took place right in the child’s home so it was able to assess the real world events during actual play sessions.  What the researchers found was that parents tended to remain more engaged in interactions with the child while using the simpler toys.  The high tech, “bells and whistles” EXPENSIVE toys tended to cause the parents to put the situation more on auto-pilot and leave the kid to his own devices with the toy.  Using electronic toys the parents spoke about 40 words/minute.  With simple toys like blocks it was 56 words/min and books were 67 words/min. Even the quality of the talk was better with more descriptive sentences used with the simpler stuff.

Am I advising AGAINST using computer toys, tablets, programs?  Of course not.  Whatever you and especially you child likes, whatever stimulates them, whatever is helpful and useful in your efforts to play with and teach your child is great.  But the toy/game is merely the vehicle that gets you there–it isn’t the trip and certainly not the destination.  Those things are you and your child, playing and enjoying each other.  And LEARNING TOGETHER.

My point is that you should buy whatever toys you and your child like.  Simple or complex.  High or low tech.  But don’t feel guilty if it isn’t the expensive latest gizmo.  If you don’t like it, don’t understand it, and especially don’t feel like you can afford it, that’s fine.  If you play with your child you are doing something so much better, more important, and ultimately more valuable for both your child and you.

More and better learning that way.  AND when your child is grown, and you are old and gray, they will cherish the memory of playing with Mom and Dad a lot more fondly than the stupid tablet (at least, now that I am mostly there, that is what I am hoping!)

A Happy and Healthy New Year to all. Thanks for following.

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