Parents, it’s that time of year again when you are being bombarded with marketing and advertising telling you what toys to buy your child. While electronic devices and educational apps are incredibly popular this year, don’t go buy your kids that fancy gadget just yet.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a study that found the best toys to encourage healthy development in your child are not fancy, digital or virtual. The best toys you can buy your kids for Christmas this year are regular, old-fashioned toys. No screens. No apps.
While the LeapFrog Leappad, Amazon Fire for Kids, and Samsung Galaxy for Kids are all highly rated and reviewed gifts for 2018, this study reports that electronic devices limit the human interactions toys are supposed to encourage.
“The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending and interacting together,” said Dr. Alan Mendelsohn. “You just don’t reap the same rewards from a tablet or screen. And when children play with parents—the real magic happens, whether they are pretending with toy characters or building blocks or puzzles together.”
It may seem simplistic to buy your child something like building blocks or stuffed animals when such high-tech, advanced toys are being advertised, but trust me, these simple toys are still best for a child’s development. Here are a few reasons why:
They are good for brain health.
Physical toys that require a child to use his hands recruit the use of his imagination, which is important for healthy intellectual and social development. A child’s brain is being hard-wired at this stage of life. Too much screen time can literally change the wiring of the brain, which can have permanent effects.
Too much screen time can literally change the wiring of the brain, which can have permanent effects.
They promote social interaction.
To add to what Dr. Mendelsohn said, with actual toys, kids can give and receive emotional responses while they play, as opposed to games they play on a screen where they are passively entertained. Even though the child may respond to her device, she receives more than she engages.
With actual toys, kids can give and receive emotional responses while they play, as opposed to games they play on a screen where they are passively entertained.
Playing in a way that encourages your child to give responses is very important for healthy communication, forming relationships and forming healthy attachments.
They reduce overstimulation.
Overstimulation is a huge problem for kids today, particularly for kids who have ADHD. Too much auditory or visual stimulation revs kids up, causing them to remain in fight or flight mode, which produces prolonged anxiety in a child.
Too much auditory or visual stimulation revs kids up, causing them to remain in fight or flight mode, which produces prolonged anxiety in a child.
Real toys calm kids. Calm is something kids desperately need in their lives. (This is why “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” was such a hit.) Children crave calm but don’t know that they crave it, so parents, it is up to you to select toys that promote calm in your child’s life.
Technology is great, but when it comes to your kids, less is more. Go simple this Christmas. Buy the “old-fashioned” toys and focus on spending time with your child rather than buying her the fanciest device on Amazon.
To learn more about the types of toys to buy your child depending on his age, visit HealthyChildren.org.
To learn more about monitoring your child’s screen time, read my Ask Dr. Meg: “What About Screen Time?”