Technological toys are often promoted as being useful for child development. However, research suggests that actually, traditional toys are far more effective at helping children gain language skills.
We live in a technological age, and our children are surrounded by technology. According to various studies, children watch two and a half hours of television per day on average, and spend around an hour browsing the internet. Indeed, most households will have at least one tech-based gadget, such as an iPad or smartphone; in addition to a number of electronic toys.
Electronic Toys – Negative Impact On Language Development?
Certain electronic toys offer great learning benefits for children, teaching valuable educational skills in a stimulating engaging way. However, scientists are concerned that too much time spent on gadgets could slow language development – leaving children struggling to communicate effectively with their peers.
A study, carried out by North Arizona University, found that babies, when playing with electronic toys, babbled less than they would when playing with traditional toys, such as building blocks, books and board games. They also noted that their parents communicated less with their children when playing with electronic toys.
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Professor of Psychology at Temple University, has also studied the effects of certain electronic devices on babies. She commented: ‘A toy should be 10 percent toy and 90 percent child, and with a lot of these electronic toys, the toy takes over 90 percent and the child just fills in the blank.’
How Do Children Acquire Language?
The whole process of learning language is fascinating. Children initially learn by listening; tuning into the conversations around them, and in particular, how their parents interact with them. As your baby develops, it starts to respond to language, mainly in the form of babbling or gestures. And then, as time goes on, they learn more about body language, interpreting people around them, and how to use language to generate different responses. This is why communication with people and the environment is so fundamental – indeed, it plays a key role in language acquisition.
As you can see, significant factors in language development are interaction and leading by example. In situations where the parent is less talkative (e.g. when the child is observing an electronic toy) their valuable input is temporarily reduced. Of course, if this only occurs occasionally, it’s unlikely to be a problem. However, if electronic toys are used too frequently, this means that the valuable opportunity to interact with your child is minimized.
Which Old-Fashioned Toys Are Best?
If you want to help your child develop their language skills, here’s a list of the best traditional toys to invest in.
- Books – The same study found that books encouraged the most interaction between parents and their children – a sizeable 67 words per minute (electronic toys only produced 40 words per minute). Select books that are age-suitable and encourage questions; for example, ‘what color is the cow?’, or ‘how many birds can you see?’
- Building Blocks – Building blocks are not only excellent at developing motor skills and coordination, they’re also a useful conversation-starter! Working with your child to build something, even if it’s just a basic tower, encourages plenty of comment about the shape of the bricks, the best ways to assemble them, and what to do when they all fall down!
- Dolls – Imaginative play, by its very nature, requires plenty of interaction; as children instinctively ‘do the voices’ of their dolls or figurines. As a parent, you can join them with this, helping them to understand the rhythms of language and how people respond to one another. This is also invaluable for developing social skills!
- Dressing Up Outfits – By dressing up, your child is able to adopt a different persona – and explore how that character might communicate with others. Make sure to react to their comments, to encourage meaningful interaction.
- Board Games – Most board games require some form of interaction, often in the form of quiz-style questions. In addition to encouraging your child to communicate, it teaches them some valuable social skills – such as taking turns, listening to instructions and realizing that they can’t always win!
Key Ways To Encourage Talking
Language is one of the most important skills your child will ever learn. It not only helps them to communicate with others – it’s a valuable form of self-expression. It supports thinking and problem-solving, and helps us to develop meaningful relationships with those around us. The process of mastering language is the first important step in literacy – and forms the foundations for reading and writing.
Here are a few ways to encourage your child’s speech and language development.
- Keep Talking – As an adult, with plenty to think about on a daily basis, it’s sometimes easy to forget to talk to your child. However, even talking about lunch or the weather helps them learn communication skills. Prompt them to use language by asking questions that require a response; such as ‘do you want to wear your red or green dress?’ or ‘would you like an apple or a peach?’ Praise them when they make an effort to talk, and repeat their words to encourage a meaningful two-way conversation.
- Ask Their Opinion – Wherever possible, encourage your child to voice an opinion and join in the conversation. Make questions as open-ended as possible, rather than asking questions that require only a yes / no answer. This helps children to use a wider vocabulary and experiment with words. It also sends a clear message to your child – that you value their opinions and are genuinely interested in what they have to say. This boosts self-esteem, and strengthens their social skills.
- Avoid Over-Correcting – As your child masters the art of talking, it’s inevitable that they will make mistakes from time to time. Avoid over-correcting, as this impedes their natural flow, and can make them reticent to speak, for fear of getting it wrong. It can also undermine their self-confidence. Instead, repeat what they’ve just said, but model the correct way to say it and expand their language, rather than drawing attention to their ‘deficiencies’.
- Read Read Read – We’re surrounded by opportunities to read – on the back of our cereal box, on road signs, in shops and on packages. Seize every opportunity to read with your child – as the more exposure your child has to speech and language, the sooner they’ll understand it. Some effective ways to encourage language development through reading are: introducing new vocabulary on a regular basis, reading to your child every day (bedtime is always a great time to do this), or asking your child questions about what’s happening in a story. Encourage your child to see reading as a pleasurable activity, rather than a chore.
Traditional Educational Toys At Kiddit
Technological toys certainly have a place in the modern world, and can offer your child a variety of educational advantages. However, the importance of ‘old-fashioned’ toys, regular interaction and language development cannot be underestimated. Building blocks and books may have been around for centuries – but there’s a reason for that. Quite simply, they’ve been proven to be highly effective, not to mention fun!
If you’d like to find out more about toys that help your child to develop language skills, simply visit Kiddit. We’ve got a wide range of toys, suitable for babies, toddlers and older children on our website.