Who among us hasn’t at least been tempted to remove the batteries from a loud, light-flashing, noise-making toy?
We know our children are having fun, but to adult ears, the noise is all but overwhelming.
While children are certainly drawn to sensory-stimulating toys that light up and makes noises, these toys take away from the social engagement that play is meant to provide, meaning parents and children alike talk less when electronic toys are in use. Even toys marked as educational elicit “fewer adult words, fewer conversational turns [and] fewer parental responses than during play with traditional toys or books,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Like sugar, these toys light up the reward centers in our children’s brains without providing any real value to help them grow.
So, what’s a parent to do with Christmas around the corner and all the shiny, new, battery-powered toys on display? Our advice is to go old-school! And if that makes you think of wood grain building blocks and tinker toys, remember there are plenty of non-electronic toys that are also fun and exciting! Here are some examples:
Pretend play toys: Think Barbies, action figures, animals and dinosaurs. Many franchises have their own line of toys, including low-tech options, that your child will get excited about. These are a great option for toys that have a “wow” factor while still giving children the opportunity to use language and stories to learn about the world around them.
Manipulative toys: While this category does include those wood grain blocks, it also includes things like Legos, building kits, puzzles and trains. These toys foster children’s fine motor skills, and some can build early math skills, as well.
Art supplies: Crayons, markers, coloring books and paints all make great gifts that children can have fun with while building their creativity. If you want something more elaborate, art supply stores often have kits for activities you can do with your child.
Experience gifts: Does your child love sea creatures? Give them tickets (or even a membership) for a nearby aquarium. Are sports more their thing? Consider tickets to a game. Art classes, martial arts classes, concert tickets or a “ticket” for a camping trip can all make great gifts that your child will be excited about!
In short, choose toys that spark your child’s imagination, give them the chance to explore their world and bond with others in their family. (And of course, make sure the toy is age-appropriate for your child.) In the process, you can save your sanity from the roar of noisy toys.
For more information about play and development, visit healthychildren.org for American Association of Pediatrics recommendations. Visit freemanhealth.com/pediatrics for more information about pediatric services at Freeman Health System.