Your toddler is whining while you wait for something, so you give him your smart phone to play with. At home, your preschooler plays for hours on the iPad. Is this good or bad for your children? Are you giving them a head start in getting them ready for school or is all that screen time bad for their brain growth?
Research has shown for years that television viewing will not teach your baby to read or even get them ready to read. Shows that were supposedly educational (remember Baby Einstein?) have all been proven to not work. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no television viewing at all or a baby’s first 2 years.
But what about interactive games such as apps? The respected Sesame Street Workshop is developing apps. The School Library Journal and many other educational groups put together lists of “Best Apps for Preschoolers”. Even the Marysville library offers tablets for checkout preloaded with preschool-appropriate games. Yet the Campaign for a Commercial Free-Childhood (CCFC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission stating that there is no rigorous research to support Fisher-Price’s claim that their “Laugh & Learn,” apps support language development and conceptual learning in babies.
What we do know is that playing with your young child is the most effective way to develop their language. Providing your child with lots of different toys and textures to explore, and having a loving adult play with them, talk with them, and narrate what they are doing, is the proven way to develop your baby’s brain.
What are some easy toys?
- Boxes. Big boxes are great to climb in and peek out of. Empty food boxes are great for stacking and knocking over. Blocks and stray pieces of wood are good, too.
- Shakers. An empty sealable box - like an oatmeal bin or two lids taped together with electrical tape - with stuff in it makes interesting sounds.
- Sticks. Bang on the boxes, bang on the ground, bang on pots, roll them around.
- Playdough. Anything squishy is fascinating. Commercially available, it is also very easy to make.
Chalk. Make marks on the sidewalk, make marks on paper.
- Sand and dirt. Different textures invite toddlers to explore what they can do and build. In fact, many things from outside - such as leaves and grass - are multi-sensory sources of great vocabulary and exploration.
- Shredded paper. Toddlers will treat this like sand, but is cleaner and easier to pick up.
- Bubble wrap, foam, textured bath mats, quilts, scarves and pot holders, black-and-white patterned bath towels or shiny paper. This is great for crawlers as they explore different textures and sights.
Will an app immediately turn your baby’s brain to mush? Of course it won’t. But neither will playing with your smart phone immediately make your baby smarter or give her a leg up in the world. An app is but a tool in a parent’s arsenal in dealing with life with their child, and the best way to give a child a leg up in life is get down and play.