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Best Toys for Your Child’s Development

21 December 2020

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As technology advances, so do children's toys. You'll find a very different toy aisle than you may have seen twenty years ago. Today, many toys are digital and can talk, interact, sing and dance along with your child. But, heavy use of electronic media may be too much for your little toddler's developing brain.

A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sheds light on selecting appropriate toys for children's development in an era where digital, media-based toys replace traditional children's toys. 

The purpose of toys

To help you find the best toy for your child's development, it's helpful to remember the exact purpose toys are used. The AAP describes a toy as an ideal and significant opportunity for parents and other caregivers to engage fully with children using toys as an instrument of play and interaction.

Traditional toys over digital toys

Pediatricians say the best toys for young children are traditional, hands-on toys that can be enjoyed with parents. Think of things like wooden blocks, peg puzzles, nesting cups, ring stackers and pull along toys. Household items also make great toys, such as cardboard boxes, pots and pans, and homemade noise shakers. All of these items help with fine motor skills and spark imagination and creativity.

Imagination and development

Pretending through toy characters such as stuffed animals and associated toy objects such as cars, can encourage children to act out various experiences they may have had or something that is of interest to them. By pretending, children experiment with decision-making on how to behave and are also practicing their social skills.

This kind of imaginative play ultimately facilitates language development, self-regulation of emotions (such as calming themselves down), symbolic thinking and social-emotional development. This type of place also helps toddlers express how they see the world and their place in it.

Effects of too much electronic play

The AAP cites studies suggesting that heavy use of electronic media may interfere with children's speech and language development and replace important playtime with parents. Although children may be playing with educational content, such as learning the ABC's, they still aren't practicing speech with others or interacting with parents. 

There are also studies showing that too much time sitting connected to electronics can promote childhood obesity. Think of how many hours they may be sitting playing games on an iPad, this could be replaced with physical activity around the house or outside.

Like many things, electronic toys in moderation are fine. The critical rule to follow here is that heavy media use shouldn't replace one-on-one playtime and interaction with the parent or other children. 

A good rule of thumb when buying toys is to match children's developmental skills and abilities and find things that further encourage the development of new skills. Developmentally advanced toys can be appropriate, especially when caregivers support the child's learning of a new skill.

Overstimulation from electronics

Overstimulation happens when a child is overwhelmed by more experiences, sensations, noises and activity that he or she can cope with. This can occur when an electronic toy or video game is too advanced for the child's age, therefore causing them to become overstimulated and irritated. Overstimulation can also be triggered through experiences, such as overcrowded, noisy rooms or events. 

How can you tell if a toddler is overstimulated? Look to see if they suddenly get tired and act overwhelmed. Also, keep an eye out for some of these indicators of overstimulation.

  • Seem suddenly cranky and upset after playing with a toy
  • Cry and not be able to use words to describe their feelings
  • Throw themselves on the floor in tears or anger
  • Tell you they no longer want to do a particular activity
  • Refuse to do simple things like putting on a seatbelt.

If you notice any of these signs, try to offer quiet time and a familiar, calm environment. 

Key takeaways for children's toys

Provide children with safe and developmentally appropriate toys. You don't need to buy the most expensive or sophisticated toys, simple is best.  If you need somewhere to start, view this list of age-appropriate toys selected for developmental milestones. 

Choose toys that are not overstimulating and encourage children to use their imaginations. 

Lastly, toys should be enjoyed with other children, the parents or caretaker. This social interaction is one of the best things you can do for your child's development. 

Visit an INTEGRIS pediatrician for more information or to make an appointment for your little one today. 


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