Families have a lot of options when it comes to choosing toys for their child, but which type of toys are best? A recent study found that old fashioned toys, like blocks or shape sorters, can help families support their child’s development.

While electronic toys that have music or make sounds may be entertaining for children, the study found the parent–child interactions with electronic toys differ from those with traditional toys in important ways. With traditional type of toys, parents are more likely to words to describe activities and directions (like, “Can you put the block inside the cup?”) which help children learn skills needed for kindergarten.

Children’s interactions with electronic toys tended to be more adult-driven, and some features may be more distracting than teaching.

Watch the video from Child Trends to see the difference between traditional and electronic toys.

When considering a toy for a child, think of the different ways a child can use the toy when playing. If there are only one or two ways to use the toy—and imagination and creativity is limited—then it may be better to select a different toy. You can also think how everyday household items may be used in playing and learning.

Box: Babies and toddlers can put items, like blocks, inside the box, then empty it. This teaches basic science skills! Help your child count the items, and you’ve just added math skills.

Jump Rope: Preschoolers and kindergartners can lay the rope on the ground and practice walking the line. This teaches large motor skills. Help your child make shapes or letters with the rope on the ground and you’ve just added the basics for literacy.

PA’s Promise for Children has additional activities to do with young children to help them learn. When I Play, I Learn has fun activities using everyday items.

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