Posted on Monday, July 4, 2016 by Jia Yue 2 minutes
Hi there! Welcome back to this on going series of Myths vs Facts!
Play is very important for children as it is linked to many aspects of a child’s development. These include cognition, language, social skills, emotional development and physical development (Frost, 1998). There are many ways to play, such as playing peek-a-boo by using our hands, with household items, or with actual toys.
As technology advances, so do the types of toys that are available to our children. Electronic toys produce a variety of enticing sounds, lights, and movement. Children are therefore easily drawn towards electronic toys such as animated stuffed animals, baby laptops and of course your smart phone. And parents may find electronic toys keep their child easily occupied and quiet. However, are electronic toys better than traditional toys such as blocks and cooking sets?
Myth #3: Electronic toys are better than traditional toys
Fact #3: Electronic toys are not necessarily better than traditional toys
Let us look specifically at the link between electronic toys and language development. A recent study by Sosa (2016) found that when parents are engaged in play with their babies using electronic toys, there was a reduced quantity and quality of language provided by adults. Results showed that parents spoke less and had less conversational turns with their children when playing with electronic toys. Also, children vocalised less when playing with electronic toys, compared to playing with books. Considering the fact that the amount of language input that a child receives is important for language development, playing with electronic toys is likely to have an impact on a child’s language development.
With the amount of interesting sounds and effects generated by electronic toys, parents may think that they do not need to participate much in the play as the child is already engaged. They may just be watching their child play instead of being part of the play.
When playing with electronic toys, children only need to respond in a certain way that is required by the toy. The language that is used may be very simple and will likely lack variety compared to the words and sentences used during interactions with other people. Also, children do not need to be as creative in the ways they can play with the electronic toy.
Play with electronic toys can be carried out as a solo activity. There is little need for the inclusion of other partners in the play. Hence, there is also less use of social skills such as turn-taking and sharing.
Traditional toys (and books!) are definitely encouraged for children to play with as there are more opportunities for communication, social interactions, use of cognitive skills such as creativity and problem-solving, and physical movements to help develop gross and fine motor skills.
But we also understand that we live in a modern world and your child would be exposed and yearn for electronic toys and gadgets. As parents, you may sometimes just need some reprieve and rest that you get when electronic toys captivate your child. I suppose the old adage “Everything in moderation” would apply.
If your child is playing with an electronic toy, you can try to add value to the play with the following suggestions. Factors to consider include how the toy had been designed and how parents use the toy to interact with their child during play.
Frost, J. L. (1998). Neuroscience, Play, and Child Development.
Sosa, A. V. (2016). Association of the type of toy used during play with the quantity and quality of parent-infant communication. JAMA pediatrics, 170(2), 132-137.
Wooldridge, M. B., & Shapka, J. (2012). Playing with technology: Mother–toddler interaction scores lower during play with electronic toys. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 211-218.