It’s overwhelming for any parent — what toys to buy your children.
To begin, toys can be expensive. Then there’s the issue of what children say they want vs. what parents feel the kids should have. There’s also the digital question: In our digital age, to what extent should parents give in?
But the big issue: How can parents choose toys that not only are fun, but also help a child learn?
To help, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published a new report titled “Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era.”
The report states: “Play is essential to optimal child development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. It also offers an ideal and significant opportunity for parents and other caregivers to engage fully with children using toys as an instrument of play and interaction. The evolution of societal perceptions of toys from children’s playthings to critical facilitators of early brain and child development has challenged caregivers in deciding which toys are most appropriate for their children.”
10 Tips to Select Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era
The report offers advice for parents and caregivers: 10 tips on How to Select Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era
Recognize that one of the most important purposes of play with toys throughout childhood, and especially in infancy, is not educational at all but rather to facilitate warm, supportive interactions and relationships.
Scientific studies supporting a developmental role for toys primarily come from studies of activities in which children play with caregivers rather than alone. The most educational toy is one that fosters interactions between caregivers and children in supportive, unconditional play.
Provide children with safe, affordable toys that are developmentally appropriate. Include toys that promote learning and growth in all areas of development. Choose toys that are not overstimulating and encourage children to use their imaginations. Social-emotional and cognitive skills are developed and enhanced as children use play to work out real-life problems (see Zero to Three: Tips for Choosing Toys for Toddlers in Resources).
Make a thoughtful selection of toys and remember that a good toy does not have to be trendy or expensive. Indeed, sometimes the simplest toys may be the best, in that they provide opportunities for children to use their imagination to create the toy use, not the other way around. Choose toys that will grow with the child, foster interactions with caregivers, encourage exploration and problem-solving, and spark the child’s imagination.
Use children’s books to develop ideas for pretending together while playing with toys; use of the library should be routine for all parents regardless of socioeconomic status. A list of community library locations for the office should be considered.
Keep in mind that toys are not a substitute for warm, loving, dependable relationships. Use toys to enhance interactions between the caregiver and child rather than to direct children’s play.
Seek the pediatric health care provider’s advice in distinguishing between safe and unsafe toys (see Resources).
Be aware of the potential for toys to promote race- or gender-based stereotypes.
Limit video game and computer game use. Total screen time, including television and computer use, should be less than 1 hour per day for children 2 years or older and avoided in children 18 to 24 months of age. Children younger than 5 years should play with computer or video games only if they are developmentally appropriate, and they should be accompanied by the parent or caregiver. The use of media together with caregiver interaction is essential to minimizing adverse media effects on the young mind.
Seek out toys that encourage the child to be both mentally and physically active.