Video games seem to be the favorite way for kids to relax and have fun. They come in all sorts of genres, all sorts of technical details and with animation so amazing that it really sucks you into an alternate world. I remember that feeling of escaping into another world from when I was young, but back then it was from books: “Anne of Green Gables,” “Junie B Jones,” “Ramona and Beezus,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the Nancy Drew mysteries … and much later, as an adult, the Harry Potter series. Flash forward 30 years and instead of book series, beloved video games are part of the lexicon of childhood fun – Angry Birds, Guitar Hero, Resident Evil 4, Gran Turismo 3, Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto.
Interestingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published a paper addressing this very question. Pediatricians still feel that play is essential to optimal child development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth. It also offers a significant opportunity for parents to engage with kids using toys for play and interaction. Our perception of toys has evolved from seeing them as children’s playthings to now seeing toys as facilitators of early brain and child development. This challenges caregivers to decide which toys are most appropriate for their children.
Picking the Right Toys
1. Recognize that the one of the most important purposes of play with toys throughout childhood, and especially in infancy, is to foster warm, supportive interactions and relationships.
2. The most educational toy is the one that facilitates interactions between caregivers and children through supportive, unconditional play.
3. Provide toys that are safe and affordable. Avoid toys that are over stimulating; instead, encourage the child to use their imagination.
4. For guidance on what toys are appropriate, refer to https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1076-tips-for-choosing-toys-for-toddlers.
5. Use children’s books to develop ideas for pretending together while using toys. Use of the local library should be routine for all parents.
6. Limit screen time (TV + computer) to less than 1 hour per day for children 2 years and older. For younger children, between 18 and 24 months of age, screen time should be avoided.