1. Lessened Quality of Parent-Child Interaction
Have you ever watched a toddler playing with an electronic toy? They are fascinated by pushing buttons and they are usually doing it on their own. Electronic toys do make great babysitters, but do they encourage quality parent-child interaction? I would have to say “not really”.
Yes, there are many parents that will still interact with their child while playing with these toys, but the quality of the interaction is not the same. Adults tend to let the toy do most of the talking and they are less responsive to the demands for attention from their child.
The same can be said for e-books. Toddlers need to see and feel a real book in order to truly engage with the story. Research has found that 3 year old’s are less likely to follow the plot of a story when it is in e-book format. Please click here for more information.
Babies and toddlers learn best by seeing and touching three dimensional objects as opposed to two dimensional objects. So in order to learn new words a parent can show a child a toy dog while saying the word dog and barking.
Your child can then take the toy dog and pretend to make it jump, eat, roll over, etc. This cannot be done by looking at a picture of a dog on a smart phone and touching the screen. This may produce a dog barking and maybe the dog will jump on the screen but it is still two dimensional.
2. Decrease in Vocabulary Used by Parent
Since electronic toys “talk” to your toddler, the vocabulary parents use tends to be decreased. Parents do not use the same words that they would if the toy did not make a sound.
The link I provided above refers to a study done on electronic vs non electronic shape sorters. The researchers found that while parents talked to their child in both groups, the parents whose children were given the electronic shape sorters used less spatial language. Children connect and bond more with their parents than with electronic toys.
A word spoken by a toy will less likely be remembered than a word spoken by the parent. And, when a parent is doing the talking, they tend to repeat the same words several times using varied pitch and intonation. A toy will not do this.
3. Over Stimulation
Electronic toys can be very loud and overwhelming, especially for a young child. Toddlers love to explore but they don’t want to be startled all the time. Most electronic toddler toys have on and off switches, so you can turn them off and your little one can still play with the toy. If there is no switch, just take out the batteries.
Some toys are also somewhat of an all-in-one learning toy. One toy to teach numbers, letters, colors and more. Honestly, this is a bit much for a 1-2 year old. One step at a time!
Toddlers will often show that they have been overstimulated through behavioral changes. You may not realize it in the moment, but unexplained crying or change in mood can be the result of over stimulation. It can also indicate that the child is tired, perhaps from being over stimulated.
4. Too Much Sedentary Time
Pushing buttons and hearing sounds becomes mesmerizing to a toddler (and many adults). Some of them can zone out and do the same thing over and over, thus not moving around.
We want our children to learn about and explore their environments. Learning in the early years is supposed to be active, including hands on experiences with people, objects and nature.
I have noticed more and more “active apps” being developed to get kids moving. There is even a company called SpringFree Trampolines that has developed a product called Tgoma. Their slogan is “Motivate your family to go outside and be active”.
It uses an iPad (with bluetooth) and has sensors throughout the trampoline. There are various activities you can connect to the trampoline. It’s basically an interactive game for the trampoline.
I don’t have an issue with this in itself. It is great that kids are outside having fun.
What I don’t agree with is having to use a device to lure the kids outside (and onto a trampoline). For a child just being outside and playing in nature should be fun.
But enough of my tangent. My point is that fancy toys for toddlers often end up with your little one being less active.
5. Decrease in Creativity
What is presented on a screen is only a representation of something real. Touching a screen or pushing a button may teach cause and effect (which is a key foundational skill, but remember it is only one skill) but it does not provide as full or meaningful of an experience that could happen with real person to person or person to object interaction.
A child who is listening to and watching an electronic toy cannot be as creative as one who is making something up on the fly.