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Electronic Toys May Impede Language Development, Suggests Recent Research

By Kristi Pahr

There are few sounds parents dislike more than the constant chirping, beeping, singing, or buzzing of children's electronic toys. These sounds, often on repeat for hours of the day, are like the proverbial nails on a chalkboard and quickly become an irritation to already stressed parents. Purchased by well-meaning parents or relatives, electronic toys are frequently marketed as "learning toys" or "educational toys," with promises to help young toddlers hit milestones, such as counting and reading. 

Even those who start their parenting journey with the intention of not allowing electronic toys often end up with noisy, flashing, beeping toys. Gifts from friends and relatives who want to help give the child a "leg up" or who want to feel that they've given the child the "best" or "coolest" toys, which are often electronic, may lead to children playing with these toys anyway. And while the noise and sing-song voices of animated puppies and counting pianos may drive parents to distraction, the lure of the marketing message is often just enough encouragement to convince parents to deal with the annoyance.  

Research indicates, however, that the truth is a far-cry from the marketing. A 2016 study published in the Journal of American Medicine Pediatrics, compared how different types of toys impact interactions between parents and children. Toys considered in the study include puzzles, age-appropriate books, open-ended toys such as wooden blocks, and electronic toys marketed as educational.