Northern Arizona University researchers have found that old-fashioned toys are better in helping young children and parents in language learning. The researchers conducted a controlled experiment involving 26 children whose ages range from 10 months to 16 months.
The young participants were given different sets of toys – books, traditional toys and electronic ones that have lights, sounds, recorded songs and words. The parents were told to use the toys during their playtime in their own homes. The sounds of the playtime period were recorded in order for the researchers to analyze them later.
From the recorded sounds the researchers found out that there were distinct differences when the children were using books and electronic toys and traditional toys and electronic toys. There were very limited interactions between parents and children when they were using the electronic toys. These popular and flashy electronic toys induced less verbal interactions between the babies and their parents, and the parents made fewer responses to their children. The electronic toys caused the babies to utter less content-specific words and were less vocal when they were playing with toys that produce lights, sounds and music. Parents and babies had less back-and-forth communication.
Meanwhile, books produced the highest number of verbal exchanges between babies and parents, according to the researchers. They added that these results just prove that their previously collected data showing that very young children receive positive benefits when their parents read books to them were true. The findings were expanded to show that children were more communicative when they play with traditional toys.
The researchers said that their research was a small one and was limited in diversity. But they still want to encourage parents to spend some quality time with their young children and use it to have healthy interactions with their babies even if they are busy.
In a related journal written by Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Dimitri Christakis and University of Michigan Medical School’s Dr. Jenny Radesky, they said that electronic toys that light up and make noises were effective at catching the attention of children as their orienting reflex were activated. This is a simple reflex that causes the mind to focus on an auditory or fresh visual stimuli.
During play the exchange of conversation not only teaches language to children but also teaches them social and literacy skills, and role playing. It also provides parents with better insight into the developmental stages and struggles of their children.
According to the researchers, the study showed that toys that light up and make noises may be appealing but they prevent the engagement of children with the surrounding environment.