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Are electronics really educational?

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

The electronics debate

Electronic toys certainly are fun. You may wonder, however, if they really are educational, and if all that music and flashing are doing your child any good. Is it just a big advertising scheme? As it turns out, it depends on the game.

Little girl playing with handheld video game

A toy doesn't have to be electronic to be educational, but today's kids seem to prefer them by a wide margin. Here's the bottom line: Even the most educational toy in the world won't benefit your child if it doesn't attract and hold her attention. Electronic toys often come with all the bells and whistles needed to do just that. Kids like the lights, sounds and interactive qualities of electronic toys, so they pay attention to them. This is a key factor in whether a toy can be an educational tool for your child.

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The right toy for your child

Many electronic toys on the market do have educational benefits. The key is to match your child with the right toy for her. All toys are marked with a specific age range or stage, and that information is there for a reason. Toys are designed to fit children at certain stages in their lives, and age range labels help pair kids with toys that meet their comprehension skills, coordination, attention span, educational needs, abilities and more. If you pick out a toy for your child that's below her range, she'll get bored quickly and the toy will be abandoned for something else. If you choose a toy that's too advanced, she'll quickly become stumped, bored or frustrated, and that toy will end up in the corner, too. Follow the age and stage guidelines on electronic toy packages to ensure you're getting the right toy for your child.

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Getting her attention

All those bright lights and repetitive songs may drive you up the wall, but they serve a purpose. The lights and colors draw your child in, and the repetitiveness helps her absorb what she's hearing. Find an electronic toy that captures your child's interest. Take her shopping with you and let her play with toys before you make a purchase. If it can't hold her attention for five minutes in the store, it's not going to teach her much when you get it home.

Relevant subjects

An electronic toy isn't going to do much good if it doesn't teach the material your child needs to know. Look for toys that cover the basics, such as reading, math, science and history. Aim to find games that improve your child's performance in his trouble areas, or save money by finding one game that covers a wide range of topics.

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Personalization

Many of today's games can be customized to appear as if they were made just for your child. Most do this by connecting to your computer. Toys can learn your child's name, as well as her favorite things. They can be programmed to work on certain areas and track her progress for you.

Versatility

Many electronic games are multi-functional. They can shift shape or function to fit the needs of children from a wide range of ages. This is a handy feature, considering that electronic toys are often much more expensive than non-electronic toys. Toys like this can last years or more, instead of just a few months.

Read online reviews before any toy purchase. Other moms will tell you exactly what they thought of a toy, and whether it helped her child.

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