/ Modified jan 8, 2016 1:34 p.m.

Study: Traditional Toys Superior to Electronic for Kids' Speech

NAU study shows parents 'let the toy do the talking for them' when it's electronic.

Child playing spotlight

By Melissa Sevigny, Arizona Science Desk

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Children learning to talk are better off with blocks, puzzles and books than electronic toys, research from Northern Arizona University shows.

Anna Sosa, director of NAU's Child Speech and Language Lab, authored the study. Sosa said she recorded play sessions between parents and children in 26 families, discovering that parents talked and interacted less with their babies when playing with electronic toys than when the children played with traditional toys or books.

“The parents seemed, in the electronic toy condition, to let the toy do the talking for them,” Sosa said.

That isn’t good for language development, Sosa said, because children under the age of 3 need social interaction to learn new words.

Sosa began the study three years ago because she wanted to know what to say to parents who asked if they should buy electronic toys marketed as educational.

“And now I would confidently say no,” she said. “The time you have available to spend one-on-one playing with your child is limited to begin with, and it will be better spent, based on these results, playing with books, playing with traditional toys and not having those electronic toys in the interaction.”

Sosa cautioned that the results might be different with a larger, more diverse group of participants and said she also wants to see the work repeated with the newer electronic toys now available.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The Arizona Science Desk is a collaboration of public broadcasting entities in the state, including Arizona Public Media.

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