Toys and the effects they have on the linguistic spectrum of the child at play are manifold indeed. The child learns through interaction with the environment and by manipulating different types of toys.
All the electronic toys that spoke mechanically, lit up and spouted jingles were associated with less language skills in the children who played with them.
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However, books, wooden figurines and blocks such as LEGO helped the children who handled them gain linguistic skills that came in handy later on in life.
Nowadays we live in times of fast cash, fast food and the dangers of life in the fast lane aka Hollywood. Direct interaction between parents and children is limited due to deadlines, office assignments, tight schedules and other financial constraints not to mention daily tensions.
Optimal interaction between kids and their parents is of the essence in such critical times of stress and strain. An experiment was carried out in which 26 parents with little children were studied.
The children were 10 to 16 months old. Audio recordings provided the researchers with clues as to the levels of intimacy and warmth between parents and their infants at home.
Three sorts of toys were given to the participants. These consisted of: electronic gadgets, traditional devices and finally story books with nursery rhymes and fairy tales in them.
When the electronic toys were used, fewer words were exchanged and less banter occurred. It may have been quite stimulating but it was not a very human or warm experience.
But when children played with traditional toys and heard stories from their parents, the effects were much better. They displayed greater language skills and built a social and human ability to relate with others which was impressive.
Children even produced less vocal responses when they played with the electronic items. It was as if they had become slaves to the machines as Karl Marx predicted more than a century ago.
Even with the traditional toys, the parental bonding was not as marked as it was when these selfsame parents read out stories from interesting books to their children.
There are a few loopholes in this experiment though. The sample of participants is too limited to be of use-value in generalizing the results. However, the bee has been put in the bonnet.
There is strength and force behind traditions and so traditional toys are the ideal companions of little tykes. And as for books, they contain the wisdom of the entire human race in a concentrated form.
So they are absolutely the best friends that kids (and adults) have on a lonely planet. Everyone will let you down except for books which will provide you comfort and solace in these extremely narcissistic and isolationist times.
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The findings of this study were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).