Book’s better than e-toy for language development: study

An electronic toy that lights up or `talks' may not be as good as traditional wooden toys for your child, said a new research. A book helps parents provide better mental stimulation for their young ones, it added.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, stated that electronic toys for infants that produce lights, words and songs were associated with decreased quantity and quality of language compared to playing with books or traditional toys such as a wooden puzzle, a shape-sorter and a set of rubber blocks.

In an age when an Ipad is considered the best learning tool for children, the study hints that traditional toys are better if only because they allow better interaction between parents and children.

The study was conducted by Dr Anna V Sosa of Northern Arizona University among 26 parent-infant pairs; the children were 10 to 16 months old. The participants were given three sets of toys: electronic toys (a baby laptop, a talking farm and a baby cell phone); traditional toys (chunky wooden puzzle, shape-sorter and rubber blocks with pictures); and five board books with farm animal, shape or color themes.

``While playing with electronic toys there were fewer adult words used, fewer conversational turns with verbal back-and-forth, fewer parental responses and less production of content-specific words than when playing with traditional toys or books. Children also vocalized less while playing with electronic toys than with books,'' said a press release.

The study, while limited in size, underlined a tested theory: the potential benefits of book reading with very young children.

An editorial in the journal explained that ``conversational turns during play do more than teach children language. They lay the groundwork for literacy skills, teach role-playing, give parents a window into their child's developmental stage and struggles, and teach social skills such as turn-taking and accepting others' leads.''

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