Why Pediatricians Are Urging Parents to Gift Kids With Blocks Instead of High Tech Toys

Thinking of getting your child a tablet for Christmas? You might want to think again.

Though tablets and other high-tech kid’s toys sometimes come with educational games and videos that claim to help kids with their development, experts say kids would really benefit more from traditional toys verses digital gadget.

A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics is what put this warning against high-tech toys out there. They state that parents should be focusing on “traditional hands-on toys and games that fuel the imagination and aid in healthy development.”

“Simple is better”

“Toys have evolved over the years, and advertisements may leave parents with the impression that toys with a ‘virtual’ or digital-based platform are more educational,” said Aleeya Healey, MD, FAAP, a lead author of the report. “Research tells us that the best toys need not be flashy or expensive or come with an app. Simple, in this case, really is better.”

So how do you find the best toy for your child? One that matches your child’s developmental abilities, experts say, or sometimes even going above that. So definitely check the age recommendations, and sometimes go a bit older than how old your child is.

Thee kinds of toys are most beneficial during the stage when children move from infancy into toddlerhood.

What kinds of toys are the best toys?

Really, any toy that allows children to use their imagination can help them develop their brains, communication skills, problem-solving skills, social cues, and more.

For an example, one of the best kinds of toy is the good old building block. Remember the ones from when you were a kid? These allow children’s imaginations to spark and run free.

Additionally, blocks, or toys of the same nature, have a simplicity about them that don’t overstimulate the brain, yet still encourage children to use their imaginations, thus developing all these skills.

“The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending and interacting together,” said Alan Mendelsohn, MD, FAAP, co-author of the report and associate professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Population Health at NYU Langone Health. “You just don’t reap the same rewards from a tablet or screen.”

How you as a parent can further help

While giving the gift is great, experts recommend not simply giving it to them and running away and having them fend for themselves. It helps when you as the parent or guardian play with the toy with them.

“And when children play with parents— the real magic happens, whether they are pretending with toy characters or building blocks or puzzles together,” Dr. Mendelsohn says.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to read to your children every night—from an actual, physical book—which can help them further develop their brains and more easily come up with ideas for playing with simple toys, like blocks.

Lastly, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting any digital screen time to 1 hour per day for children 2 years or older, and avoid it altogether for those younger than 18-24 months. Anyone under 5 should be accompanied by an adult when playing, and only should be allowed to play at all if they’re “developmentally appropriate.”

The more we know about early brain development, the more we understand the need for play that is based on human interaction,” Dr. Healey said. “There is no screen, video game or app that can replace the relationships built over toys.”

Do you let your child play with high-tech toys? What do you think about presenting them with building blocks, or other simple, traditional toys that spark imagination?