How Toys Impact the Learning and Language Skills of Your Child

First Posted: Dec 30, 2015 07:32 AM EST

How do toys impact that learning and language skills of your child? Scientists have found that electronic toys that produce lights, words and songs were associated with decreased quantity and quality of language compared to playing with books and traditional toys.

The reality of many families of young children is that opportunities for direct parent-child play time is limited because of financial, work, and other familial factors. Optimizing the quality of limited parent-child play time is, therefore, important.

In this latest study, the researchers conducted a controlled experiment involving 26 parent-infant pairs with children who were 10 to 16 months old. Researchers did not directly observe parent-infant play time because it was conducted in participants' homes. Audio recording equipment, though, was used to pick up sound. Participants were also given three sets of toys: electronic toys, traditional toys, and five board books with farm animal, shape or color themes.

When playing with electronic toys, the researchers found the children used fewer adult words. There were also fewer conversational turns with verbal back-and-forth, fewer parental responses and less production of content-specific words than when playing with traditional toys or books. Children also vocalized less while playing with electronic toys than with books.

"These results provide a basis for discouraging the purchase of electronic toys that are promoted as educational and are often quite expensive," write the researchers in a news release. "These results add to the large body of evidence supporting the potential benefits of book reading with very young children."

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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