Digital toys for kids you don’t have to feel guilty about: The Tribune India
Geelong (Australia), December 21
Guilt may have always been a part of selecting and giving gifts to children on Christmas. However, in 2021, after two years of increasing screen time for children thanks to COVID, parents may experience even more uncertainty about what to buy.
But what if the power of play could counter some of these fears?
The importance of play is well recognized. Play has a developmental power to facilitate communication, increase personal strengths, promote emotional well-being and improve social relationships.
This can be true for digital gifts as well as more traditional gifts. Here are some ideas for on-screen toys that are good for both child development and parental guilt relief.
Screen time – is there too much?
First, let’s address the number one concern many parents have: Can too much screen time interfere with a child’s development? The answer lies in knowing and balancing the risks and rewards of screen time.
A recent study from the University of Colorado at Boulder of nine and ten year old children found that even when children spend five hours a day in front of screens, “it doesn’t appear to be harmful.” The study also suggests that screen time can improve social relationships.
While parents need to make sure their children are using screens appropriately, our early research suggests that screen time is unlikely to have dire consequences.
Research also indicates that the type of screen time is important. This suggests that active engagement (like playing a game or doing an activity) can be beneficial, while extended periods of passive screen time (like watching TV or YouTube) could be detrimental.
There are international and Australian recommendations for suitable screen time for children, which vary by age.
The guidelines also advise negotiating clear limits for screen time, limiting sedentary screen time, and incorporating physical activity and social relationships.
For kids, this can mean sharing a family device, having clear limits on a parent’s use and supervision.
Ultimately, screens are a part of modern life – children must learn to navigate them. Modeling a healthy screen time and selecting developmentally appropriate toys or digital play platforms are two ways that parents can help children develop a healthy relationship with screen time.
Digital toys for all age groups
Video chat is the only form of screen time recommended for babies and toddlers. Digital devices and apps can help parents, when used with their babies or toddlers, maintain relationships with friends and family.
Apps on a parent’s device, such as Baby Karaoke, can help parents remember and sing nursery rhymes and children’s songs. Joining your child in playful rhythms and rhymes during the first 1,000 days supports many aspects of brain development.
- Preschoolers (3-5 years old)
Screen time, when supervised by a parent and part of a healthy and balanced family lifestyle, can foster the development of children’s imagination, creativity and storytelling.
Digital games and apps like Osmo, where players use real-world objects to interact with the digital world on their device, can develop communication, social, and problem-solving skills.
Digital games and apps that support learning, social skills, and creativity are recommended for school-aged children.
Application ideas include Stop Motion, where children use physical toys such as Lego figures or plasticine models to create short animated movies. Khan Academy for Kids enables children to read books, create and draw, solve puzzles, and play games that promote social skills.
Pre-teens can begin to conduct a significant part of their social life online. Supporting the development of their sense of digital citizenship is a crucial step and should be taken into account when choosing digital gifts.
Thus, digital games that promote learning, contain positive messages and allow a sense of accomplishment are recommended for pre-teens. As a parent of two pre-teens, Kate shares that two favorite apps in her house are the Procreate drawing / art app and the Calm meditation, ambient sounds and bedtime story app.
Other ideas include learning a new skill like a musical instrument with apps like Simply Piano or Simply Guitar. Heads up! lets you play charades online, while the popular Minecraft video game fosters creativity. Finally, work as a family to remember, preserve, and write family stories using Story Corps.
Screen time can be included in the healthy lifestyles of adolescents. Digital activities that promote interests and hobbies and improve social connections are an important consideration for development, health and well-being.
As a parent of a teenager, Judi shares that the current favorite in her home is the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset, which enables social connection through VRChat, Altspace, and meditation with TRIPP and Nature Treks.
Other ideas include getting out into the wild for a family scavenger hunt adventure using geocaching. Or organize a trivia night with family or friends using Sporcle. Games like Spore allow players to design their own species by evolving microscopic organisms in their own creations.
What to keep in mind
If you’re doing your own research, use terms like “creative apps for preschoolers” and use a review site like Common Sense Media to verify your choice. And consider the physically active screen time choices.
Examples include the Nintendo Switch which encourages physical activity such as dancing (Just Dance) or real-life exercises including jogging and yoga (Ring Fit Adventure).
There’s also virtual reality, which enables fun, exploration, and experience through multiple modes, including movement (Beat Saber), artistic creation (Tilt Brush), and immersive experiences (Wander).
So stop for a moment this Christmas when considering digital gifts for kids and ask yourself three questions:
1) Is there a physical component?
2) Will this gift be used together in a relationship?
3) What is the play value? (The conversation)