Researchers think that simpler toys like rubber balls and building blocks are healthier for the creative development of the child, as compared to expensive electronic gizmos.
"Old-fashioned retro toys, such as red rubber balls, simple building blocks, clay and crayons, that don't cost so much and are usually hidden in the back shelves are usually much healthier for children than the electronic educational toys that have fancier boxes and cost 89.99 dollars," said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University developmental psychologist, the Lefkowitz Professor of Psychology at Temple and co-director of the Temple University Infant Lab.
She said that the overreaching principle is that the children are active creative problem-solvers and discoverers.
"Your child gets to build his or her imagination around these simpler toys; the toys don't command what your child does, but your child commands what the toys do," she said.
Roberta Golinkoff, head of the Infant Language Project at the University of Delaware said: "Electronic educational toys boast brain development and that they are going to give your child a head start. But developmental psychologists know that it doesn't really work this way. The toy manufacturers are playing on parents' fears that our children will be left behind in this global marketplace."
"Kids are not like empty vessels to be filled. If they play with toys that allow them to be explorers, they are more likely to learn important lessons about how to master their world," she added.
Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff, co-authors of Einstein Never Used Flashcards, have offered parents the following advice, guidelines, and questions to ask themselves when choosing the proper toys for their young children:
• Look for a toy that is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child
• Toys are meant to be platforms for play
• Look to see if the toy promises brain growth
• Look to see if the toy encourages social interaction
"This advice is not about marketing, but about what we know from 30 years of child psychology about how children learn and how they grow," said Hirsh-Pasek.
Golinkoff added, "The irony is that the real educational toys are not the flashy gadgets and gizmos with big promises, but the staples that have built creative thinkers for decades."