With Christmas round the corner many parents are starting their Christmas shopping. We are then faced with the dilemma of what to buy! The adverts on TV have started with a frenzy and they are all designed to draw in young minds, so that their new toy becomes the “must have” item this year! The children then pressure their parents into buying them (or santa) as they simply “must have one!”, often for it to be discarded by Boxing Day! There is also the electronic vs traditional toy issue, with children spending so much time on screens, should electronic gadgets and games be encouraged or discouraged?
There are certain toys which have stood the test of time, a Wooden Dolls House or toy garage garage are such examples. Toys like these can actually become family heirlooms, passed on from generation to generation. Then there are the toys which are fads, which only last a season and the next must have game on the PS4, but if all your children’s friends are getting the top toy this Christmas, it’s really hard for parents to take a stance and say “no”.
Toys are incredibly important for a child’s development as they promote play and imagination. Are there any benefits of electronic games or are we best sticking to traditional toys?
The importance of play
Play is the starting blocks for learning and discovering the world. Interaction during play is very important for language development, especially in toddlers. Talking and communicating during play with parents and friends develops communication skills and the play associated with small world toys such as trains, dolls and farms encourages the thought processes used in discovering consequences caused by actions and empathy. The imagination encouraged during play is excellent for story telling and language development. So it is very apparent that play is really important!
There is a great deal of press surrounding electronic toys and the possible negative effect they have on a child’s development. Electronic toys have even been associated with lazy parenting. However we live in a digital world and our children are drawn to electronic games. There is also a risk that if the toys are avoided altogether that children may fall behind their peers.
Thankfully there are some benefits to a child playing electronic games, the key is moderation and combining traditional toys with electronic ones. Electronic games and toys are useful for reading development. There is a lot of the written word on these games meaning that children “need” to develop reading skills fairly quickly in order to progress in the game. Many games also require the child to develop skills in order to make quick decisions and work out puzzles, which is all useful in daily life. Many educational games around early numeracy skills are available, which allows skills to be developed in a fun and interactive way.
Although there are benefits for children playing electronic games, it is a virtual world which doesn’t give the benefits gained from actually actively playing with a toy in the traditional sense. Toys need to stimulate all the senses. Balance and coordination skills, as well as cause and effect knowledge can be better learnt through stacking bricks or building a marble run. Also imagination is better developed through playing with “small world” toys due to the versatility.
Parents have so many choices to make when it comes to buying toys, but as long as there is a good mix of traditional toys and electronic toys available you won’t go far wrong.