For Christmas The Simplest Toys Are The Best Toys In The Digital Era
During the holiday season, young children are enticed with different advertisements promoting the latest toys and electronic gadgets. Digital gadgets increasingly fill the toy aisles for children. To advise families in the use of digital gadgets as replacements to the traditional games and hands-on toys, AAP - American Academy of Pediatrics published a report titled, "Selecting Appropriate Toys For Children In The Digital Era," stating “best toys for children’s development are those that foster play between a caregiver and child.” Additionally, games and hands-on toys help in healthy development by fueling the imagination.
As said by Aleeya Healey, author of the report, “Toys have evolved over the years, and advertisements may leave parents with the impression that toys with a virtual or digital-based platform are more educational. Research tells us that the best toys need not be flashy or expensive or come with an app. Simple, in this case, really is better.”
Evolving Definition of Toys –
As defined by AAP, a toy is “an object (whether made, purchased, or found in nature) intended for children’s play.” Toys play a major role in fostering development across all the domains, including physical, language, social-emotional, and cognitive. In the past 100 years, the play has not changed, but toys have incorporated the latest technological advancements. For this reason, parents think that digital media and electronic toys are necessary for developmental progress; however, there is no evidence supporting this concept.
In AAP – traditional toys are defined in different ways –
- Pretend play or symbolic toys – action figures, dolls, etc.
- Manipulative, adaptive, or fine motor toys – blocks, puzzles, etc.
- Art– paints, coloring, play dough, etc.
- Concepts or language – magnetic letters, games, etc.
- Physical or grass motor toys – ride-on toys, etc.
Why Traditional Toys?
Traditional toys help kids in learning skills such as hand-eye coordination, sensory development, etc. Additionally, they help in improving specific tactics by improving the memory of the child. It also improves the coordination and communication between the kids if they start playing these types of games from a younger age. Traditional toys are important for child development as they –
- Encourage peer play
- Facilitate caregiver-child interactions
- Increase imagination
Advertising and Toys
Marketing through new media and traditional mediums has been used for encouraging caregivers to consider “technologically-driven” toys as critical for development. This type of marketing results in increased exposure for children to computer programs, enrichment videos, specialized books featuring a voice-recorded reading, etc. As per credible sources, all of these types of claims for “technologically-driven” toys on advertising and packaging are largely substantiated, and therefore, it is important for the providers of pediatric health care to help caregivers in deciphering these advertisements.
Additionally, toys are used as a marketing mechanism. As mentioned in AAP, there were many fast food restaurants offering toys as incentive with particular meal purchases. These were nutrient poor and energy dense meals. The main idea behind this technique was to increase restaurant sales, and such incentives are indirectly promoting childhood obesity by providing them with unhealthy food.
Incentives and promotions are a main consideration for children younger than 8 years, who are unaware that advertisements and promotions are designed for persuading children to force their caregiver to buy specific products. Recent initiatives have been taken by the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to develop regulations for the purpose of guiding and reducing such suggestive content in advertisements.
American Academy of Pediatrics report states, “US toy ordinance piloted in Santa Clara County, California, which prohibited the distribution of toys and other incentives to children in conjunction with meals, foods, or beverages that do not meet minimal nutritional criteria.” This specific action positively influenced the healthful menu item’s marketing with the toy incentive, and as a result, children started requesting their parents to buy them healthier food options.
The negative impact of playing with digital toys
According to a report published in 2015, 96.9% of the children used a mobile device, and most of them played with devices before 1 year of age. Screen time is inversely proportional to active play as an increase in screen time results in decreased play with toys. The major risks include –
- Promotes obesity
- Promotes aggressive behavior
- Disrupts parent-child interactions
- Interferes with play activities
- Desensitizes children to violence
As stated by the clinical report of American Academy of Pediatrics – “Although it has been suggested that there may be learning benefits in association with interactive media, there is presently no evidence to suggest that the possible benefits of interactive media match those of active, creative, hands-on and pretend to play with more traditional toys.”
Toys and Child Development
According to AAP, Ideal toys are those that match the developmental abilities of the children while encouraging and promoting the growth of new skills. In addition, toys are the primary source to develop the brain of children. Social interactions, language interaction, and problem-solving skills are vital for children to move from infancy to toddlerhood.
Alan Mendelsohn – the co-author of AAP, said, “The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending, and interacting together. You just don’t reap the same rewards from a tablet or screen. Electronic toys do not provide any option to children with parental engagement or interaction that is critical to the child’s healthy development, as per AAP. There are many “interactive media,” including specialized books that feature voice-recording, computer programs, and videos making claims related to educational benefits in television ads that are substantiated.
The clinical report mentioned in the American Academy of Pediatrics covers safety considerations when selecting toys, and appropriateness of toys for those children having special needs. As said by Aleeya Healey, “Select toys that promote you with your child. The most important consideration when purchasing a toy is that it encourages warm and supportive interaction.”
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
* Selecting Appropriate Toys For Young Children In The Digital Era
* Ignore The Flashing Screens: The Best Toys Go Back to The Basics
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