The headlines have actually been coming for years, but a new round has been catching everyone’s attention the past few weeks.
“Old-fashioned toys, not video games, best for kids, pediatricians say.” “So-called ‘educational’ toys rarely really are.” “Old-fashioned toys better for development than high-tech gadgets, study finds.” “The best toys are those that support play, new report says.”
Just in time for the biggest gift-giving season of the year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released toy guidelines that suggest that high-tech trends are promoting toys for children that are over-stimulating, ineffective when it comes to development, and in some cases, actually lead to skill delays.
As I mentioned, this isn’t new. Years ago, a study out of Northern Arizona University found that parent-child study groups using electronic toys *specifically designed to promote language development* led to lower quality language experiences, than when those same groups were playing with basic, open-ended, old-school toys (think blocks, puzzles, and shape sorters).
While engaging with tech-toys, the parents tended to speak less and in a more directive manner (“touch here”, “swipe that”). But when playing with classic toys, parents and children engaged in language-rich exchanges.
How is it that we’ve been sold the idea that an internet connection can surpass a human connection?
The interesting thing is, with all the interest, excitement, and even pressure to jump into high-tech toys in the name of giving “the best” to our young children, the reality is that the *best* thing for our kids is…..US.
Presence. Connection. Communication.
If you asked me what we could give to every young child that would improve developmental outcomes exponentially, it wouldn’t be a tablet for every student. It would an engaged adult for every child.
Even better: A community of engaged adults.
Adults who ask questions and stick around for the (sometimes long and wandering) answers.
Adults who get down on the floor to play games and lift children up onto their laps to read stories.
Adults who look them in the eye and show them that they’re so happy to be together in that moment.
Adults who show up.
Clearly, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Just because your child has figured out how to unlock your phone, doesn’t mean he’s compensating for a lack of connection in his life.
But for all the pressure and effort and investment that goes into getting our kids connected with tech, the best value lies in building a real connection with people.
Kids don’t need to be plugged into technology. They need caring adults to be plugged into them.
Especially during this busy and special time of year, let’s focus on plugging in and building a real connection with the children around us.