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Why Traditional Toys Make Your Baby Babble Better Than Tech Toys

If you’re unsure about all those “smart” toys that your infant wound up with this holiday, here’s one potential argument for exchanging them for some good, old fashioned dumb ones: New research in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests that tech toys for infants — even the ones that specifically aim to help your kid develop language skills — do a worse job than books, blocks, and puzzles.

The researchers gave 26 families tech toys like a baby farm, a kid-friendly laptop, and those fake cell phones that even an infant knows aren’t as cool as your iPhone. They also gave them traditional toys and a recording device to leave on for 3 full days. With the tech stuff, the majority of the parents spoke fewer words to their kid and responded to them less indulgently compared to when they used the ones without batteries. Whether it was inadvertent or not, the parents wound up kind of letting that tiny little artificial intelligence babysit the baby, likely to the detriment of the baby’s own intelligence.

JAMA Pediatrics

To be fair, electronics, like educational videos, have been shown in other studies to be beneficial for infant communication. What this particular study suggest is that the tech toys themselves aren’t the issue. Rather, the lack of engagement by the parents, which the tech toys seem to create, is what negatively impacts your kid. So go ahead and keep all that crap your in-laws insisted on buying your kid — just make sure you get down on the floor and moo at Baby Robo-Cow alongside them.