Study: Forget electronics for toddlers; think blocks, cardboard boxes

A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents of toddlers should skip electronic gifts this holiday season and instead pick up some blocks if they want to help their children build language skills.

The study, released Monday, says playing with simpler toys, like blocks or even the box the blocks come in, will go much further in helping young children develop speech skills.

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The study's authors also stressed that when children play with their parents or other children using simple toys, they exercise parts of their developing brains they wouldn't if they were using electronic devices.
Non-electronic toys allow children to use their hands "to explore and manipulate" so as to "strengthen those areas in the brain associated with spatial and mathematical learning," the study said.

The study cited another study from 2015 that suggested 96.9 percent of children have used mobile devices and most started using them before 1 year of age. That much screen time at that early an age also impacts the time a child would have for what the authors call "active play."

Losing active play time can mean a child is at higher risk of becoming obese, the study says.

The study’s authors say play with any kind of simple toy will benefit a toddler, even if it is a cardboard box.

“A cardboard box can be used to draw on, or made into a house,” Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, co-author of a new report on selecting toys for children up to around age 5, told The Associated Press.

Mendelsohn is a pediatrician at NYU Langone Health in New York.

Mendelsohn said parents often feel that “the toy that is best is the one that is the most expensive or has the most bells and whistles or is the most technologically sophisticated,” but that is not the case.

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