As I watched my son’s flag football game, a team mom parked her stroller on the sidelines nearby. The toddler seemed unusually quiet and uninterested in the lights and noise and excitement around him. He was playing with his mom’s magical iPhone.
In a recent New York Times article, Toddler’s Favorite Toy: The iPhone, Hilary Stout reports, “the device is now the Toy of Choice — akin to a treasured stuffed animal — for many 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds.” She says parents use the iPhone as a toy and call it “educational” because their toddler chants the alphabet. Parents, however, share a nagging guilt. They wonder if the device is indeed an educational toy, or another form of TV.
“What children need at this age is whole body movement, the manipulation of lots of objects, and not some opaque technology,” says educational psychologist Jane Healy. “Here’s the parent busily doing something and the kid is playing with the electronic device. Where is the language? There is none.”
Keep the iPhone hidden from your little ones. Tap into your child’s senses, and talk about everything in your surroundings. Find the football. Look for the scoreboard. Read the numbers. Listen to the cheerleaders. Chant a cheer. A child learns best through active participation.