Are Electronic Toys Better for Your Baby?

Get any flashy, glitzy, noisy toys for your baby this Christmas? Well, a recent study out ofbabybookcropped Northern Arizona University and recently discussed by HealthDay news service, found that when electronic toys “do their thing”, so to speak, babies don’t…do much of anything.  This study printed in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at 26 pairs of parents and kids aged 10 months to 16 months.  The researchers used audio recording equipment in the participants’ homes to monitor verbal activity.  Each family received several different toys.

  • The first set included electronic toys, like a talking farm and toy cellphone and toy laptop.
  • The second toy set had traditional toys like wooden puzzles, a shape-sorter and rubber blocks with pictures.
  • And thirdly, the families received board-books.

Now, when playing with the electronic toys, everyone, (the babies AND the parents) talked a whole lot less.  The parents seemed mesmerized as much as the kids!  The books produced the most verbal exchanges between the kids and the parents. The researchers noted that the electronic toys commanded the attention of the kids, by activating the orienting reflex, which is a primitive reflex for focusing on new or novel visual or auditory stimuli. But it only gets the attention; it doesn’t necessarily help with stimulating thinking processes.

So, the take home message is that when we are exposed to attention grabbing items, whether it is media for us older folks, or media and toys for the younger set, we may not realize that brain thinking and processing may be limited by the “attention-grabbing” part of the toy. When adults may have attention grabbed, we stop talking to our kids!  So, share those books, laugh and sing and play with your baby a lot!  It’s better than all the noisy bells, whistles, and flashing lights any day.  Don’t let media and glitz distract you from the important people in your life, and it starts by giving that kid a hug.

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