Electronic toys may hamper language development in kids

Playing with books and traditional toys such as wooden puzzles may be better for language development in kids than expensive electronic toys that produce words and songs, scientists say.

In a new study, electronic toys for infants that produce lights, words and songs were found to be associated with decreased quantity and quality of language compared to playing with books or traditional toys.

Participants were given three sets of toys ¬ electronic toys (a baby laptop, a talking farm and a baby cell phone); traditional toys (chunky wooden puzzle, shape-sorter and rubber blocks with pictures); and five board books with farm animal, shape or colour themes.

While playing with electronic toys, there were fewer adult words used, fewer conversational turns with verbal back-and-forth, fewer parental responses and less production of content-specific words than when playing with traditional toys or books.

Children also vocalised less while playing with electronic toys than with books.

Results also indicate that parents produced fewer words during play with traditional toys than while playing with books with infants. Parents also used less content-specific words when playing with traditional toys with their infants than when playing with books.

The results showed the largest and most consistent differences between electronic toys and books, followed by electronic toys and traditional toys, researchers said.

“These results provide a basis for discouraging the purchase of electronic toys that are promoted as educational and are often quite expensive,” the researchers said.