Guest blogger Jessica Katz: The other day, we had a playdate at our house. And my friend's son was enamored with my daughter's toys ... because they all light up and play music.
My friend's son is not allowed to have toys with batteries. I was a little shocked when I found out: Why not? They hold the babies' attention so well -- which means that I get a break. But my friend shared with me that there had been a lot of research done on this, and the bottom line is that batteries inhibit a baby's imagination. "They should be using their brains, not batteries," my friend told me.
I wasn't sure about this, so I decided to do some research -- and she was right. Experts are saying that these new high-tech toys are actually dumbing down our kids, inhibiting their intellectual growth and stifling their creativity. The kids don't have to imagine what a car would do; the car makes lights and noises for them. Basically, if kids are more obsessed with their fancy toys than the world around them, it's not a good thing.
Moderation is key. Obviously, we don't live in the Dark Ages, and some toys will light up and make noise (like my daughter's music table that she is obsessed with). But the majority of your child's play should be with people and things that spark his or her imagination. After all, electronic toys have a limited amount of responses and repertoires, so they will bore your child after a while. They don't even think about what else this toy could possibly do; they are done with it.
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I decided to turn off my daughter's toys and observe. She wasn't happy. It was like I'd sucked the fun out of her toys. She looked really disappointed that her music table wasn't talking to her. But I decided that she would have to deal with it, and she did! She actually explored baskets of toys she had never explored before.
Another good idea is to rearrange your child's toys every couple of days, to keep things new and exciting for them (and so they find new items amongst their toys). In this age of talking toys, it makes you wonder: Will this generation have a need for imaginary friends -- or just new batteries?