The NYT: The Case for Creative Play in a Digital Age

creative play
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The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents of young children to go for high-quality traditional toys rather than elaborate digital ones.

In support of creative play, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a statement on toys, advising parents of young children (from birth to school age) to go for high-quality “traditional” (that is, physical) toys rather than elaborate digital ones. It discusses the cognitive and developmental advantages of toys that give children scope for imagination and invention and, above all, toys that encourage play that brings parents and children together.

Dr. Aleeya Healey, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Albany Medical College who was a co-author of the A.A.P. statement, said that the most essential message for parents was the importance of relationships in the lives of young children.

“The less bells and whistles a toy comes with, the more it lends itself to creative play and imaginative play,” she said. “The more the toy can do on its own, the more distraction it lends itself to.”

Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine who was a co-author of the A.A.P. statement, said that there is a great deal of overlap between screens and toys now, and “parents are getting all of these messages about how screens and tablets and mobile devices and laptops are the thing that’s going to help their children to learn and become advanced in their development.”

In fact, he said, there is plenty of evidence that screens can cause problems if they interfere with parents and children playing together, and it’s that playing together that matters most, both while the children are young and as they grow.

“Spending some time playing with your child or reading with your child builds the relationship,” he said. “It helps them as things get more complicated in later childhood and adolescence.”

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