Old-fash­ioned toys oust tech

Top tot toys such as blocks and boxes back over elec­tronic ones

The Chatham Daily News - - LIFE - LIND­SEY TAN­NER

Skip the costly elec­tronic games and flashy dig­i­tal giz­mos. Pe­di­a­tri­cians say the best toys for tots are old-fash­ioned hands-on play­things that young chil­dren can en­joy with par­ents — things like blocks, puz­zles — even throw­away card­board boxes — that spark imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity.

“A card­board box can be used to draw on, or made into a house,” said Dr. Alan Men­del­sohn, coau­thor of a new re­port on se­lect­ing toys for young chil­dren, up to around age five.

Many par­ents feel pres­sured by ads pro­mot­ing tablet-based toys and games as ed­u­ca­tional and brain-stim­u­lat­ing but there’s not much science to back up those claims, Men­del­sohn said. Their main mis­con­cep­tion: “The toy that is best is the one that is the most ex­pen­sive or has the most bells and whis­tles or is the most tech­no­log­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated.”

Sim­pler hands-on toys that par­ents and young chil­dren can play with to­gether are prefer­able for healthy devel­op­ment, said Men­del­sohn, a pe­di­a­tri­cian at NYU Lan­gone Health in New York.

The re­port re­cently pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics cites stud­ies sug­gest­ing that heavy use of elec­tronic me­dia may in­ter­fere with chil­dren’s speech and lan­guage devel­op­ment, re­place im­por­tant play­time with par­ents and lead to obe­sity.

Stud­ies also have found that more than 90 per cent of U.S. kids have used mo­bile de­vices and most started us­ing them be­fore age one.

The pe­di­a­tri­cians’ group rec­om­mends no screen time for chil­dren up to age two, and says to­tal screen time in­clud­ing TV and com­puter use should be less than one hour daily for ages two and older.

“A lit­tle bit of screen time here and there is un­likely to have much harm if a child other­wise has other ac­tiv­ity,” Men­del­sohn said. But he added that screen time can over­whelm young chil­dren and is dif­fi­cult to limit and con­trol.

The academy’s web­site of­fers sug­ges­tions on ideal toys for young chil­dren, in­clud­ing balls, puz­zles, colour­ing books and card games.

Shop­ping re­cently at Danc­ing Bear Toys in Asheville, N.C., a store that doesn’t sell elec­tronic toys, Leah Gra­ham Ste­wart said she sup­ports the academy’s ad­vice even if avoid­ing dig­i­tal toys and games is tough.

She said she’s no­ticed her two young boys tend to mis­be­have after play­ing on an iPad she typ­i­cally re­serves for long air­plane rides.

“We try to keep it as min­i­mal as pos­si­ble,” Gra­ham Ste­wart said. “I just tell them to go out­side and play.”

Erika Evers, Danc­ing Bear’s coowner, said the store’s mis­sion is to give kids an al­ter­na­tive to tech toys.

“Not that video games and elec­tronic toys don’t have their place — in mod­er­a­tion, in our opin­ion,” she said. “But we feel like kids re­ally need op­por­tu­ni­ties to so­cial­ize and in­ter­act with their en­vi­ron­ment in a way that is hands-on and tan­gi­ble.”

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