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Brains vs. Batteries

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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. 

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?

next: It's the Bob Marley Baby!
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Melissa November 9, 2010, 12:19 PM

My daughter, as far as musical toys went, always preferred real musical instruments… which we encouraged, despite whatever “age recommendations” were on the packaging. I personally kinda can’t stand a lot of the musical toys, so we always had a limited amount anyhow….

Annonymous November 9, 2010, 3:41 PM

My kids are 11, 7 and 5. They do each have a Nintendo DS, and internet use, and some TV, but the vast majority of their time they’re “unplugged”, and this isn’t something we moderate much, it’s mostly by their own choice at this point. They read, do puzzles, draw, color, play pretend constantly, and I have never, ever once heard any of them say “I’m bored”. they’re really entertained and happy with whatever is around them wherever they are, and I do attribute that creativity and imagination to having a very limited access to the things that have batteries or plug in from the start. They just are not dependent on those things. Moderation is the key - I think the majority of kids have way too much TV. An hour a week is plenty. The toys that don’t do anything on their own are the best.

Kristen November 10, 2010, 2:46 AM

We’ve been a tv free, battery free family for the last 5yrs and the difference between my kids and other peoples kids is truly eye opening. My children know how to have conversations with adults and play on their own. The benefits are truly amazing!

JJ November 15, 2010, 8:46 AM

I appreciate what you’re saying here (and that moderation is the key) but where are your links to research?

dd February 12, 2011, 11:52 AM

yes where are your links to research that would support your argument(s)

Flavia Fawler March 29, 2011, 5:08 AM

Incredibly good write-up,There’s no doubt that you could have without a doubt put together a web page I want to check back on regularly. Great stuff.

106 107 April 9, 2011, 7:54 AM

I cant say Im in complete accordance, thanks are in order for making the effort to put your ideas down

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