Noisy Electronic Toys and Babies' Verbal Skills
Study found that toddlers talk less when their toys talk, sing, light up more
By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- As parents scramble to find the perfect gifts for their children this Christmas, new research suggests that electronic toys that light up, talk or play music might slow language development in toddlers.
These pricey toys may seem ideal for developing minds, but researchers at Northern Arizona University said they found just the opposite: when toys talk and sing, babies don't.
"These results provide a basis for discouraging the purchase of electronic toys that are promoted as educational and are often quite expensive," according to the report published in the Dec. 23 online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.
The study involved 26 pairs of parents and their children aged 10 months to 16 months. Using audio equipment, the researchers recorded the sounds in the participants' homes to monitor their playtime.
Each family received three sets of toys. The first set included electronic toys, such as a baby laptop, a talking farm and a baby cellphone. The second set contained traditional toys, including wooden puzzles, a shape-sorter and rubber blocks with pictures. The participants also received five board-books with farm animal, shape or color themes.
The electronic toys that talked, lit up and sang songs were less beneficial for language development than the traditional toys or books, the researchers said. These flashy and popular playthings produced a lower quantity and quality of language among the babies than other traditional toys, the study revealed.
While the children were playing with electronic toys, their parents spoke less. There were also fewer verbal exchanges between the parents and their babies, and the parents responded less often to the kids. The babies were also less vocal and produced fewer content-specific words while playing with noisy electronic toys, the researchers, who were led by Anna Sosa, said in a journal news release.
Books, on the other hand, produced the most verbal exchanges between parents and their babies, the investigators found.
"These results add to the large body of evidence supporting the potential benefits of book reading with very young children. They also expand on this by demonstrating that play with traditional toys may result in communicative interactions that are as rich as those that occur during book reading," the study authors wrote.