Playing with toy blocks has long been known to aid in the development of spatial reasoning and mathematical thinking skills in children. However, with the advent of digital toys like Toca Blocks, children now have the opportunity to learn and explore in new and unique ways. While both physical and digital toys offer their distinct benefits, the rise of COVID-19 has led to an increase in the number of children playing digital games due to restrictions on going outside. As a result, parents may be feeling uncertain about the best options for their children’s entertainment. Regardless of whether it’s a physical or digital toy, play can promote communication, boost personal strengths, improve emotional well-being, and strengthen social relationships. Here are some suggestions for screen-based toys that are both beneficial for a child’s development and provide a sense of relief for parents.

1.  Screen Time Can Harm a Child’s Development

The question of whether too much screen time can harm a child’s development is a concern for many parents. Research suggests that while there are risks associated with prolonged screen time, it is not necessarily harmful when used in appropriate ways. A recent study from the University of Colorado Boulder found that kids spending five hours a day on screens doesn’t appear to be harmful and can even improve social relationships.

However, it is important to note that the type of screen time is also important, with active engagement such as playing a game or doing an activity being beneficial, while prolonging times of reactive screen display, such as watching YouTube or TV, could be detrimental. International and Australian guidelines recommend limiting sedentary screen time and incorporating physical activity and social connections for children. Parents can help by modeling healthy screen time habits, setting clear boundaries for usage, and supervising children’s screen time. Screens are a part of modern life, and children need to learn how to navigate them healthily.

2.  Digital Toys for Different Age Groups of Children

  • Toddlers & Babies

While it’s true that video chatting is the only form of screen time recommended for infants and toddlers, it’s important to note that there are many other ways to connect with loved ones and support your child’s development. For example, reading books, singing songs, and playing with toys can all be beneficial for young children. Additionally, it’s important to consider the quality of the content that your child is exposed to, rather than simply limiting their screen time. For example, apps and games that are specifically designed for young children and focus on educative or developmentally appropriate content can be beneficial for children in their first 1,000 days of life. With that said it’s also important to remember that each child is unique and may have different needs and preferences, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician or other child development expert for personalized guidance.

  • Pre-school kids (3 to 5 years old)

While screen time can be a source of concern for parents, when used in a supervised and balanced way, it can have positive effects on children’s development. By providing access to interactive apps and games, such as Osmo, children can learn valuable skills like communication, socialization, and problem-solving, all while using their imagination and creativity to tell unique stories. With the right guidance and balance, screen time can be a valuable tool for supporting children’s growth and development.

  • School-age kids (5 to 9 years old)

For school-age children, there are many apps and digital games that can support learning, social skills, and creativity. Some app ideas include Play-Doh Stop Motion, where children can use physical Play-Doh figures to create short animated films, or a visual programming app that teaches kids the basics of coding through creating games and animations. Another great option is Tynker, which offers interactive coding lessons and fun challenges that help kids build their problem-solving skills. Additionally, Art Set 4 is a digital art app that provides a wide range of tools and options for children to express their creativity and imagination through drawing and painting.

  • Preteens (9 to 12 years old)

As the use of technology becomes more prevalent among preteens, it’s crucial to consider the impact it has on their social interactions and overall development. One way to support preteens in navigating the digital world is through the use of digital gifts that promote responsible and safe online behavior. These gifts can help instill a sense of digital citizenship in preteens, which includes understanding the importance of privacy and security, appropriate online communication, and being aware of one’s digital footprint. When looking for a digital gift for a preteen, consider options that allow them to learn and practice good digital habits. For example, a subscription to a social media management tool can help them understand how their online behavior is perceived and how to communicate effectively. A privacy-focused browser extension can assist in protecting personal information. A journaling app can be a valuable tool for preteens to reflect on their digital habits and learn from them. In summation, digital gifts can play a key role in supporting preteens’ digital citizenship development, as they provide an opportunity to learn responsible and safe online behaviors. It’s essential to be mindful of this when choosing a digital gift for a preteen.