For Parents

For Parents

Does Toy Type Matter?

Which types of toys are best for promoting child language?

Two things that can help a child’s language development are play time and social interaction. Playing with toys can usually accomplish both of these things. There are always new toys coming out claiming to be the best educational tool to help children learn. These days, many of the new toys are electronic and can be costly. But are these flashy new electronic toys really the best tool for language development? Is there a type of toy that is best for play and for social interaction?

In a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, Anna V. Sosa explored how the type of toy affects play and parent-child interaction. They looked at parent-child interaction using three different toy types that all targeted animal naming, shapes and colors: electronic, non-electronic traditional toys, and books. They measured the number of words said by the adult, the number of vocalizations by the child, the number of conversation turns, and the number of adult responses per minute. The researchers recording parents and their children playing with a variety of toys.

The results may be surprising. Although many electronic toys are advertised as promoting child language, it may not always be the case. Sosa found that parents talked more with their child and children interacted more with their parents when playing with traditional non-electronic toys and reading books together. This increase in the quality of communication between parents and children with traditional toys indicates that child language development may fare better with them than with electronic toys. So, the next time the commercial comes on advertising the latest educational electronic toy, consider how much direct interaction those toys would really lead to, as compared to a traditional toy or a book.



Sosa AV. Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication. JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(2):132-137. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3753.