Though many children ask for the newest and most popular tech-related gifts, medical experts suggest parents stick to the simple things, such as building blocks and puzzles.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published a new report that advised parents and family members, especially with kids under the age of 5, to “ignore the flashing screens” and “go back to the basics” with playthings, including “traditional hands-on toys and games that fuel the imagination and aid in healthy development.”
Instead of tablets, battery-operated gadgets and incentivized screen time, some AAP-qualified toys are children’s books (to develop ideas for pretending) and a variety of toy characters (to limit race- or gender-based stereotypes).
While parents reach for educational programming and games online or touch-screen devices, pediatricians say electronic products do not provide children with the interaction and parental engagement that is critical to healthy development.
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“Advertisements may leave parents with the impression that toys with a ‘virtual’ or digital-based platform are more educational,” said Aleeya Healey, MD, FAAP, a lead author of the recent AAP report. “Research tells us that the best toys need not be flashy or expensive or come with an app. Simple, in this case, really is better.”
Recommended 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 those younger than 18-24 months.
“The more we know about early brain development, the more we understand the need for play that is based on human interaction,” Dr. Healey said. “There is no screen, video game or app that can replace the relationships built over toys.”