Electronic toys that emit sounds may slow language development in infants.

Electronic toys for infants that produce lights, words and songs were associated with DECREASED development quantity and quality of language compared to playing with books or traditional toys such as a wooden puzzles, shape-sorters or rubber blocks, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics. The study was controlled, with a 15 minute per day session with the toys, infant, and parent. The effect was not small: about a third fewer adult words produced by study's end.

Surprising? Yes. So, for the time being, we should not get electronic toys for infants, and maybe, by extrapolation, preschoolers. It might slightly decrease their speech development. The Luddite mothers win this round :).

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ABSTRACT

Original Investigation | December 23, 2015

Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication

Anna V. Sosa, PhD

JAMA Pediatr. Published online December 23, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3753

Importance The early language environment of a child influences language outcome, which in turn affects reading and academic success. It is unknown which types of everyday activities promote the best language environment for children.

Objective To investigate whether the type of toy used during play is associated with the parent-infant communicative interaction.

Design, Setting, and Participants Controlled experiment in a natural environment of parent-infant communication during play with 3 different toy sets. Participant recruitment and data collection were conducted between February 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014. The volunteer sample included 26 parent-infant (aged 10-16 months) dyads.

Exposures Fifteen-minute in-home parent-infant play sessions with electronic toys, traditional toys, and books.

Main Outcomes and Measures Numbers of adult words, child vocalizations, conversational turns, parent verbal responses to child utterances, and words produced by parents in 3 different semantic categories (content-specific words) per minute during play sessions.

Results Among the 26 parent-infant dyads, toy type was associated with all outcome measures. During play with electronic toys, there were fewer adult words (mean, 39.62; 95% CI, 33.36-45.65), fewer conversational turns (mean, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.12-2.19), fewer parental responses (mean, 1.31; 95% CI, 0.87-1.77), and fewer productions of content-specific words (mean, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.49-2.35) than during play with traditional toys or books. Children vocalized less during play with electronic toys (mean per minute, 2.9; 95% CI, 2.16-3.69) than during play with books (mean per minute, 3.91; 95% CI, 3.09-4.68). Parents produced fewer words during play with traditional toys (mean per minute, 55.56; 95% CI, 46.49-64.17) than during play with books (mean per minute, 66.89; 95% CI, 59.93-74.19) and use of content-specific words was lower during play with traditional toys (mean per minute, 4.09; 95% CI, 3.26-4.99) than during play with books (mean per minute, 6.96; 95% CI, 6.07-7.97).

Conclusions and Relevance Play with electronic toys is associated with decreased quantity and quality of language input compared with play with books or traditional toys. To promote early language development, play with electronic toys should be discouraged. Traditional toys may be a valuable alternative for parent-infant play time if book reading is not a preferred activity.

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