Any parent who has watched their toddler play with a box, or a wooden spoon and saucepan, can attest to the joy to be found in simple items. This feeling contrasts with the concern many parents feel as they watch their school-aged child stare into a screen as they spend far too long playing a game or passively watching a video . It's no surprise, then, that the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released a reminder of the importance -- and joys -- of simple play in the development of children.
This Clinical Report, Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era, was designed to guide pediatricians in speaking with parents, but contains important research findings and recommendations that parents will find helpful as well. The authors of the Report include Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, FAAP, who, like Dr. Yellin, is a member of the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, at New York University School of Medicine.
The report notes the importance of imaginative play, problem solving, and physical activity and especially supports the use of "guided play", where children use toys as part of an interaction with their caregiver. This can build social skills and language in a way that solitary play cannot.
Among other topics covered are the need to limit screen time. The Report notes, "there is presently no evidence to suggest that possible benefits of interactive media match those of active, creative, hands-on, and pretend play with more traditional toys." The Report also discusses the need for toy safety, what to look for in toys for children with disabilities, and the importance of using books for pretend play. Especially in this season of gift giving, this Report is something parents should read, while incorporating its suggestions into their purchases and play with their children.