Why “Smart” or “IQ-Boosting” Toys Don’t Add to Intelligence or Curiosity

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Even though I’m a first-time parent, there are many things that seem like common sense to me, but because of mainstream media and advertisements as well as American parents’ desire for their children to be “the best”, “the smartest”, or do “such and such first”, there’s been a shift in the toys built and purchased for kids these days.

The toys that seem to be “all the rage” are those that make noise when buttons are pushed, play songs or music, high-tech language-learning DVDs, Baby Einstein DVDs, Leap Frog books and toys, toys that “talk” to the child and say their name, ad infinitum. There are a few problems with toys like these. I’ll give the reasons why and then I’ll mention some great open-ended toys for children instead of close-ended toys like the ones that seem to be so popular today.

High-tech toys don’t inspire creativity
Since they mainly only do 1 or 2 things, they are very limited when it comes to the “scope” in which they can be used during play. A young child will find “new” ways to play with such toys, such as banging, smacking, throwing, stuffing, etc but these can be damaging to a high-tech toy which may not have been made durable enough to withstand this type of play!

Children get bored FAST with high-tech toys
This kind of cycles back again to the “not many uses” because if there are really only a few options of what can be done with a toy, it’s sensical that boredom will always be looming around the corner with these toys. Most parents report that their child will spend 5-10 minutes with a toy like this and that’s it… sometimes for good, depending on the toy.

High-tech toys are PRICY
Out of curiosity, while at Target one day I stopped by the toy section to scope out the pricing on some of the more elaborate toys for kids. The cheapest ones were $20 and some of them were even $50 for a toy for a toddler. That may only get briefly used. And that will get stuffed into the garage eventually…

Toys that think for the child do JUST that
Toys that are interactive, respond to a button being pushed, etc do all the “thinking” and the child becomes a spectator instead of an active participant in the learning process. With close-ended toys like these, a child isn’t coming up with new and innovative ways to interact with the toy- they may just get bored with it!

“Smart” toys prey on parents’ insecurity about their child’s academic future
What better way to create a “need” and an industry than to create a problem and then magically have a solution? Designers of such toys, DVDs, and interactive games know that parents want the best for their children and that they would do (or buy!) just about anything to achieve that goal. They say in the advertisements “prepare your child for school!” and while it’s a noble gesture, these types of toys are not necessary for a child to have. In fact, open-ended toys, being read and talked to, and spending quality time together as a family is more likely to yield higher IQ and general intelligence than some “smart” toy.

Open-ended toys
Any toy that can have multiple uses is great for young kids, hence why blocks, stuffing/packing toys, stacking toys, bead runs, and containers are some of the most fun toys for babies near 1 year old. They love pots, pans, kitchen tools (like a whisk), containers (Tupperware or washed food storage tubs), baby rings, etc. because there are SO many things you can do with these items! It’s truly endless! My son loves the wooden cube blocks I got as a first birthday present from my parents. It’s very endearing to see him playing with them.

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