Press Release

Caregivers Must be Careful with So-Called “Brainy Toys” According to the American Journal of Play

Published May 5, 2023

May 5, 2023

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shane Rhinewald, srhinewald@museumofplay.org, 585-410-6365

ROCHESTER, NY—Do technologically advanced toys make kids smarter? Probably not. According to a new article in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Play, research shows that so-called “brainy toys” and those typically marketed as “educational” often elicit fewer language interactions, fewer opportunities to engage caregivers, and fewer spatial skills than their traditional toy counterparts. Because of this, it’s incumbent upon toymakers to not be exploitative in their marketing—and for caregivers, particularly of children under the age of two, to be careful when making toy choices.

The authors write that the experiences in early childhood set the stage for adulthood—from motor skills to language development to social interactions. Despite this, most toymakers don’t engage experts in child development when designing toys. In recent years, high-tech, battery-operated toys have exploded across the marketplace—many aimed at the smallest infants—and been touted as great brain builders. There is little evidence to support this.

While caregivers may select toys based in part on their own experiences and beliefs, they’re also influenced heavily by toy marketing and toy descriptions, according to a study that the authors conducted. These findings, they write, highlight that it’s “critical for retailers and manufacturers to report accurately the developmental benefits of toys so that caregivers can make choices backed by evidence about the benefits versus potential drawbacks of technological toys.” In the meantime, caregivers should be careful with their choices and consider the benefits of traditional, nonelectronic toys—pretend play, object play, and physical play—when making purchases.

The full article and complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be read freely online. Additional interviews and articles include:

“Children’s Experiences with Outdoor, Physically Active Play in After-School Programs,” by Siv Lund, Kirsti Risser, and Knut Londal.  The authors examine the outdoor, physical play of Norwegian first-graders in after-school programs. Their findings highlight the improved communication skills and movement capabilities that this type of play affords.

“Playful Choreographies and Choreographies of Play: New Research in Dance and Play Studies” by Lars Dahl Pedersen. The author examines the relationship between play and choreography. He argues that viewing play through a choreographic lens helps us understand how players physically communicate and create meaning through action in various play situations

About the American Journal of Play
The American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year by The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.