Tis the season for blowing some serious dough on gifts for your kids—and odds are, there's likely something techy on your shopping list, whether it's a reading tablet, a codeable robot or magic wand, or some other battery-operated doodad that promises to help your kid learn his ABCs or fluent French in no time flat.
But maybe it's time to put away the gadgets and think outside the box (or just wrap up a simple box) instead. That's the advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday: Their latest report suggested that the best toys for kids (especially those under five) are the simplest—blocks, boxes, and other simple objects that encourage creativity and imagination.
"The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending and interacting together," said Alan Mendelsohn, M.D., FAAP, co-author of the report and associate professor in the departments of pediatrics and population health at NYU Langone Health. "You just don't reap the same rewards from a tablet or screen. And when children play with parents, the real magic happens, whether they are pretending with toy characters or building blocks or puzzles together."
The report's authors pointed out that most tech toys' educational claims aren't proven—but several studies show that screen time can impact development of key skills, including social and language skills. "The more we know about early brain development, the more we understand the need for play that is based on human interaction," said Aleeya Healey, M.D., FAAP, a lead author of the report. "There is no screen, video game, or app that can replace the relationships built over toys."
There's plenty of time when your kids are tweens and teens to splurge on gaming systems and smartphones (or not!). But for now, consider springing for a nice set of wooden blocks instead.