Play is not without purpose.
Research demonstrates that play has a pediatric role in the development of children as it influences their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being. The vast number of research papers emphasizing the significance of toys have challenged caregivers in deciding which toys are appropriate for children.
Unfortunately, the perception of toys has drastically changed as the world shifted to a digital era. While pediatric associations and child development experts advocate simple retro toys, the market is now flooded with electronic, battery-operated, noisy, and light-emitting toys.
But do these battery-powered toys hold up in terms of developmental contribution to children? Are electronic toys really bad for kids? And should you buy them for your child?
Let’s dig deeper on this subject here!
Traditional vs. Tech Toys: A Brief Overview
Play and exploration are ways that children understand how the world works, and toys are the tools of the trade. Nowadays, we witness an increasing prevalence of electronic toys in children’s lives. A simple walk through a toy aisle reveals that generic rattles, building blocks, and puzzles have given way to high-tech toys powered by batteries and microchips.
Two researchers confounded the myths revolving around modern toys and apps. According to them, the best toys for a child’s development are not electronic. The best quality that toys possess is their ability to bring children and their caregivers into an atmosphere of playful interactions — a realm where their parent-child relationship is fostered and physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development is honed.
While these attributes are widely documented among traditional toys, there is little to no evidence suggesting that the same can be said of electronic toys despite their seemingly cognitive-boosting advertisements.
Conversely, parents and experts report and claim the potential dangers of using battery-operated or electronic toys. And we’ll outline them below:
7 Reasons why battery-operated toys are bad for kids?
1. They can toxically harm children
The most pressing problem with electronic toys is the dangers that batteries pose to children that use them.
Most electronic toys use batteries to power the device. With kids’ history of mouthing objects, it takes one unsuspecting parent and a curious child to transform an innocent playtime into an emergency.
Button batteries or lithium batteries are small and shiny, making them more appealing to children. When the batteries come in contact with bodily fluids, they release corrosive sodium hydroxide that burns a hole in the stomach, leading to illness, infection, and worse, death.
Ideally, battery-operated toys should have cases that are screwed tightly so kids can’t pry them open. But then again, it’s a risk that parents shouldn’t gamble on.
2. They hinder social interaction
Electronic toys limit the opportunity that parents have to communicate with their children. While the kids are preoccupied with the buzzing sounds and eye-catching lights emitted by the toys, children are less likely to vocalize their thoughts and feelings.
Moreover, another reason to skimp on them is that electronic toys limit language development. The research paper published in 2015 revealed that electronic toys elicited less back and forth chatter with mommy or daddy than books and traditional items.
If we aim to promote a rich communicative interaction and forge stronger social relationships among kids and their parents or peers, electronic toys should be discouraged.
3. They can negatively impact language development
Research suggests that for kids to learn to understand, write, or speak a language, they need to hear it constantly. But even though electronic language promoting toys are highlighted for their allegedly language-boosting capabilities, talking toys are problematic.
When kids and parents listen to talking toys, they often sit on the sidelines and let the toy do all the talking, bottom line? It’s not social because there’s no functional use of language from the child.
Stimulating active interaction between parents and children is best to promote language development. And there’s no evidence yet suggesting toys can do that.
The research is not free of caveats as they used a small sample size. But other experts backed up the study and stressed the notorious misleading claims by toymakers.
4. They can promote dependence
The goal of parenting is to raise children into functional, productive, and independent adults who can take care of themselves. Interestingly, exposing children to electronic toys may be counterintuitive to parenting’s main goal.
Although not one toy predicts the course of a child’s development, researchers from Boston suggested that when children become used to toys that dictate what kids should do, the concept of open-ended, explorative, and adventurous play become uninteresting.
Moreover, this can have a long-term effect on the kind of learners and individuals children can become. The influence of highly-structured and programmed play can instill a culture of dependence on other people among children.
Another reason why open-ended toys and play are vital for healthy development.
5. They can encourage an unhealthy inclination to technology
Adding to the point above, when children get the hang of toys telling them what to do and the simplistic system of pressing a button to get the desired outcome, this can lead to technological dependence.
Technology is good. But technological dependence can obstruct innovation, and children might see greater merit in sitting lazily at home over exploring the great outdoors and interacting with other people.
Undoubtedly, electronic toys can build technological awareness. But the integration of tech is more suited to older audiences.
6. They kill a child’s creativity
Children are natural-born explorers, problem-solvers, and discoverers. And they get to build their imagination around simple toys where the toys don’t command what kids should do, but children reclaim command as the chief playmaker.
Electronic toys are programmed to function depending on what button your child presses. The imagination ends the moment the toy’s designated movement does — this can be a big creativity killer!
Therefore, the rule of thumb when choosing children’s toys is this: 10% toy and 90% child, according to developmental psychologists from Temple University.
7. They don’t facilitate healthy cognitive development
Play and learning are inextricably linked.
Evolutionarily speaking, the concept of play is embedded throughout our evolutionary heritage and is described as a buffered version of real-life experiences. Across a wide spectrum of species, play is observed as an opportunity to hone the skills needed to survive the perilous world.
Although rough-and-tumble play develops an animal’s skill to survive predation, in the human context, toys and play that actively exercise children’s physical and cognitive skills empower them to acquire new knowledge. A Russian psychologist linked play and mental development. He said learning occurs when children actively participate in practical activities within a given social context.
In corroboration with other research papers, acquiring new knowledge is more likely to occur with simple toys than with electronic ones because playing with traditional toys facilitates social interaction, active mobility, and creativity among children.
Although there are little to no longitudinal research papers on electronic toys yet, there are countless reports and expert remarks on the dangers of electronic toys to children. They might work better on older audiences, but for the young crowd, simple and open-ended toys are better, according to countless research papers.
And we implore you to skimp on electronic toys and choose simple toys for your child too!
Looking for engaging simple toys?
Electronic toys flood the market, but there are devoted toymakers online geared to promoting traditional, simple, and open-ended toys for children.
TheSTEMKids has devoted its cause to producing simple toys and kits to help your child’s cognitive development and support their knack for exploration.
If you’re interested, feel free to visit our array of science gadgets to learn more!