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Educational toys: do they really improve the child's abilities?


Puzzles to learn the alphabet before kindergarten, bilingual robot supposed to teach a new language... Some toys are intended to reinforce the child's performance. Are they really useful? Answers from Vincent Joly, child psychologist.

Christmas time has come, and the gifts will soon be making their way under the tree.

During this holiday season, toys, and among them the so-called educational ones, invade the shelves and catalogs of stores.

From puzzles to learn the alphabet, to xylophones to develop musical ears, to a bilingual robot with a repertoire of more than 450 quizzes and eight fables by La Fontaine...

For years, learning has gradually infiltrated play, and many activities now claim to increase the gray matter of young children.

But will a mini electronic piano turn a baby into a “little budding Mozart”, as indicated on the box?

Not so sure and especially not so simple, according to Vincent Joly, psychologist for children.


Madame Figaro

- What happens in the brain of a playing child?

Vincent Joly.-

The child develops his imagination, the game is a privileged moment that allows him to build a representation of the world, without being subject to the real conditions of this world.

Through it, he can experience new emotions, and confront them.

Take the example of a child playing with a character and a crocodile.

He will make the animal attack the figurine, so he will immerse himself in this scenario that scares him, without being in such a situation.

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During this Christmas period, some parents offer their children entertaining toys and others, so-called



" ones.

What are they really for?

These are objects, supports, to promote playful learning.

It is common for parents to resort, for example, to early learning games such as alphabets, for children under 5 years old, in order to stimulate their child.

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But this raises a question: should we really stimulate the child through these games?

It is certain that leaving him alone in a room, with nothing at his disposal, is not good.

But the toy is only a medium, it is not enough.

To stimulate the child, the most important thing is not the object, but the interactions, the fact of playing with him.

Educational toys have grown in popularity over the past twenty years because parents see them as a way to optimize their children's academic performance.

Marketing also insists on the proto-pedagogical side of the toy, with a lot of school representations associated with it.

And this need for success becomes all the more important as the future, particularly in economic terms, is perceived as anxiety-provoking and uncertain.

Some may fear a form of social downgrading, for themselves or for their offspring.

To stimulate the child, the most important thing is not the object, but the interactions, the fact of playing with him

Vincent Joly, child psychologist

Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist, considers young children to be smarter than many toys on the market, suggesting they don't need them.

What do you think ?

I agree.

It is also interesting to note that children are able to circumvent the structured use of certain games.

I once saw a little boy who, bored with an electronic toy intended to teach him words in another language, started pressing the keys very quickly to cut out the words which then turned into rapid sounds and cacophonous.

It amused him very much.

He had transformed this language toy into a musical keyboard.

Finally, we realize that educational games are interesting but can be limiting for the child.

That is to say ?

They have a specific purpose, such as learning the alphabet or words, while free play will develop the child's creativity.

It is thus built spontaneously from everyday objects: a pen becomes an adventurer, a fork turns into a rocket, wooden cubes represent armies or monsters... The tablet illustrates the limits well.

Young children will confine themselves to very simple activities and will respond to stimuli.

They will frantically and repeatedly press a key.

This leads to over-stimulation which will artificially soothe their frustration.

Clearly, the tool stimulates them too much from a visual and auditory point of view, and not enough from a tactile and sensory point of view.

The "educational toy" formula is primarily a marketing argument that responds to the concerns of parents

Vincent Joly

Educational toys would therefore not really improve the child's abilities...

They of course participate in the sensory awakening of toddlers, they facilitate the development of language, creativity or even social skills, in particular with board games.

But the "educational toy" formula is above all a marketing argument that responds to the concerns of parents.

Finally, any toy or game can participate in the development of the child, in one way or another.

And we can trust the creativity of parents and children to make the toy something lively and playful.

In your opinion, what are the best games to provide to children?

The most important thing is first to promote interactions during games.

The configuration will be more rewarding for the child than if the latter plays alone.

Then, it is of course essential that the game pleases the child, and it is even better if the parents also like it.

The little one is then accompanied and family ties are strengthened.

Play should not be sacrificed for learning purposes, at the risk of the child not playing anymore.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2022-12-22

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