Stacking Cups Vs. Electronics

stacking cups baby

Imagine that you are in line to buy a cup of java. (For many sleep-deprived parents, this doesn't take much “imagining.”) You have your little one along for the ride, saddled on your hip. You are impatient. Your little one is even less patient. The line is long. Slow. You really want – okay NEED – this cup of coffee. You're starting to wonder who will lose it first, you or our little one.

Solution! You pull out our your smartphone, or other electronic gadget of your choice, and you hand it to your wee one. Or do you?

Recent research confirmed that one in four toddlers have used a smartphone. Is your kiddo one of them? I admit it, mine is. I've been in that coffee line and admit that an app or two has made that line seem a little shorter.

Will using your smartphone affect your little one's brain? Research has already confirmed the effects of television: The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advocated for no screen time for children under the age of two years (yes, even “educational” DVDs). “Studies suggest TV viewing may actually be harmful to those under two — even when the set is on in the background.”

And what about those smartphones? In reality, they are too new to have the research needed to conclude their effects. Though the research doesn't specifically confirm it, early childhood experts express concern over electronic interactions versus those of parent/adult to child interactions. Important skill-building such as language skills and social-emotional interactions are best formed by human to human (vs. human to electronic) interactions. Best bets for building development in your little one? The simplicty of stacking cups and books are still best for babies and toddlers.

Will this information stop you from handing your wee one your smartphone?

I admit it, I have good intentions, but sometimes that coffee line is just a little too long.


What do you think?

Stacking Cups Vs. Electronics

Jeannie Fleming-Gifford is a mama to one little lady, freelance writer, and the director of education for a non-profit community school of the arts. Graduating with a B.A. in Music and a M.A. in Child Development, Jeannie began her career in quality child development programs as a teacher, then moved into creative administrative roles with science centers, symphony orchestras and arts programs. Owner of 170+ year old house, Jeannie loves living in small town America where walks to the park and ... More

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  1. Not even mentioned are the physical needs of the young child. The child, from birth to six, is working on control of movement, strengthening the hand and finger muscles, and developing concentration (which is connected to a physical activity). The use of this type of technology (much like the use of TV in young children) immobilizes the child in most cases; with smart phones the only movement is usually the finger swipe, and in all cases does not require much hand control. As a Montessori guide, I am amazed at the age of children who are not able to focus in the classroom (on activities they freely choose, no less!), the number of children who are unable to make a choice of activity (activities are usually put directly into their hands), and underdevelopment of hand control in children as old as 5 within our classroom. Of course I have a bank of tools for assisting the children in developing these things – and I don’t consider them to be hopeless (please do not misunderstand me). We have children ranging from 2.5-6.5 years in our classroom, and anecdotally, the ones whom I know do not spend time with technology are more engaged and seem to have good hand control and control of movement, whereas the ones I know watch/play with technology often tend to be the ones who cannot make a choice or who have underdeveloped (for their age) muscle control of their hands or bodies. Again, this is anecdotal, but it is based on my observations in the classroom, and my research of early childhood development. My own children rarely seem to "need" any entertaining in situations like you’ve described in this post: of course they get squirrelly from time to time, but it is nothing that a couple simple finger plays or the handful of legos at the bottom of my purse cannot cure/curb until I’m caffeinated and better able to engage with them. God bless that handful of legos and that piping hot cup of joe!

  2. Rachel says:

    I have let my toddler play with my smart phone, but only while it is held by me. I just don’t trust my child, who throws things when they frustrate him, to not throw and accidentally break a $200 piece of equipment that I use on a daily basis.

  3. I did hand my toddler a smart phone, at first in very similar situations as what you describe. Soon, she was asking for it hourly, and didn’t want any other toys. After she dropped it and cracked the back glass while we were waiting in an airport, and I didn’t want her playing with something with broken glass, and she screamed the whole time, I realized that she was very dependent on the smartphone for entertainment, just like mommy. Long story short, I made the hard decision to wean both of us off using a smartphone as a toy (these days I only use it as a camera in a pinch, and to make phone calls), and it’s good to see my child play with other toys once again.

  4. Kelley says:

    I personally would not let my toddler play with my smartphone because he breaks everything and it’s expensive but I have no problem pulling out his play smartphone that only cost about $20 it’s educational and says colors and numbers plus hello good bye and many other toddler development options. Also my son plays with our broken phones that no longer work I don’t see a problem with it or how it could hurt him. When I was a child I had a play phone how is this any different?

  5. Valerie says:

    I don’t think that letting a toddler play with a phone is bad, it teaches them how to use those products, which are becoming more and more apart of our daily lives.

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