Before you run out and buy the latest electronic games and devices for your kids this holiday season, Temple University and University of Delaware psychologists want you to think simple. They say the overarching principle is that children are creative problem-solvers and discoverers, and they are active. Children build their imaginations around simple toys - the toys don't command what the child does, but the child commands what the toys do.
They believe that electronic educational toys boast brain development and that they are going to give the child a head start. But it does not work this way, according to the psychologists. If children play with toys that allow them to be explorers, they are more likely to learn important lessons about how to master their world.
The psychologists suggest that parents follow a few basic guidelines when choosing toys for young children. Look for a toy that is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child. Look for something that they can take apart and remake or reassemble into something different, which builds their imagination. Does the toy encourage social interaction? Can more than one child play with the toy at the same time? Old-fashioned retro toys, such as rubber balls, building blocks, clay, and crayons are usually much healthier for children than the electronic educational toys.