Our Response to The New York Times Article: “Traditional Toys May Beat Gadgets in Language Development”

While reading the New York Times article: “Traditional Toys May Beat Gadgets in Language Development”, I consistently nodded my head, as I was in an agreement with the negative critiques formulated towards the recent shift of electronics replacing traditional toys. The trivial noises and sounds performed by electronics substitutes the expression of meaningful verbal utterances spoken by a child’s external environment, specially their parents. As a graduate student of speech-language pathology, I encourage parents to purchase conventional toys such as building blocks, farm animal puzzles, and board books. The silence elicited when playing with non-electronic objects cues parents to initiate conversational exchanges with their child in order to “fill-in” the quiet spaces. Books especially stimulate the most amount of language to be expressed as stated within the article. On average, parents speak about 67 words per minute when reading and prompting questions about the book. These conversational exchanges promoted with traditional toys support the development of language.

-       Jess Bonvenca, Intern at Speech Matters PLLC

Although many recent technologies claim to boost language development in children, it is important to note that they cannot replace the meaningful language exchanges between child and caregiver that occur in more natural speech. Results from a recent study suggest that the use of electronic gadgets is associated with less meaningful verbal exchanges between parent and child. Additionally, the type of language that parents tend to use when the child is playing with a gadget typically consists of behavioral regulation words and phrases, such as “Don’t touch that.” These kinds of phrases may not be the best for fostering language development in children. When electronic toys were used, parents said about 40 words per minute on average, as opposed to 56 words per minute for traditional toys. Parents may feel less inclined to talk while their child is playing with electronic toys. One parent reported that she does not feel like talking over the noise that comes from the electronic gadgets. While certain gadgets help children with language development, they should be supplemented with traditional toys and books. 

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