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Best Tool to Teach Baby Talk? Their Parents' Voice

Children from Syria playing games in Lebanon as part of the "Syria in my Mind" project on Dec. 3. (J. Owens/VOA)

Children from Syria playing games in Lebanon as part of the "Syria in my Mind" project on Dec. 3. (J. Owens/VOA)

A new study says electronic toys are not helping babies learn.

“Even if companies are marketing them as educational, they’re not teaching the babies anything at this time,” said the study’s author, Anna Sosa. She is a Northern Arizona University professor who heads the school’s Child Speech and Language Lab.

Sosa and her fellow researchers listened to audio recordings of parents playing with their babies -- aged 10 months to 16 months. The researchers compared the experiences when the children played with electronic toys, traditional toys such as blocks, or when the children looked at books.

What they found is that parents talked less with their babies when the babies played with electronic toys.

“The parents talked less, responded less and used fewer content specific words,” Sosa said.

Why is this important?

Sosa said research shows that how quickly children develop language is often based on what they hear from parents.

When the infants played with electronic toys, parents said little to their children, Sosa said.

But with traditional toys, such as blocks, parents shared the names and descriptions of the animals, colors and shapes as their children played, Sosa said.

There was even more information given by parents as their babies looked at the pictures in books, Sosa said.

Sosa is not telling parents to throw out electronic toys. But she said parents should look at their infants’ play with such toys as entertainment, not a learning experience.

Toy Industry Association spokeswoman Adrienne Appell responded to the study. She said it is important that parents make time to play with their children.

“Playing is a way that kids can learn so much, not only cognitive skills, but social and developmental skills,” she said.

She added that play should be balanced, including time for just “make believe” activities, as well as traditional and electronic toys.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Now what do you think about educational toys for children? Let us know in the Comments and on our Facebook page, thanks!


Words in This Story

respondv. to say or write something as an answer to a question or request

contentn. the things that are in something

specific n. the facts or details that relate to something

description n. a statement that tells you how something or someone looks, sounds

entertainmentn. amusement or pleasure that comes from watching a performer, playing a game, etc.

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