Parenting: newborns to toddlers

Playing with traditional toys makes babies more talkative than electronic games play

Exposure to old-fashioned amusements such as wooden puzzles, blocks and shape sorters helps infants vocalise and develop a bigger vocabulary, researchers say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 9:02pm

Electronic toys for infants that produce lights, words and songs were associated with decreased quantity and quality of language compared to playing with books or traditional toys such as a wooden puzzle, a shape sorter and a set of rubber blocks, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, in the United States conducted a controlled experiment involving 26 parent-infant pairs with children who were 10 to 16 months old. Participants were given three sets of toys: electronic toys (a baby laptop, a talking farm and a baby cell phone); traditional toys (chunky wooden puzzle, shape sorter and rubber blocks with pictures); and five board books with farm animal, shape or colour themes. While playing with electronic toys there were fewer adult words used, fewer conversational turns with verbal back-and-forth, fewer parental responses and less production of content-specific words than when playing with traditional toys or books. Children also vocalised less while playing with electronic toys than with books. “If the emphasis is on activities that promote a rich communicative interaction between parents and infants, both play with traditional toys and book reading can be promoted as language-facilitating activities while play with electronic toys should be discouraged,” the study concludes.

SEE ALSO: Computer game helps children with ADHD

Researchers identify molecule with anti-inflammatory properties in maple syrup

Arthritis and other inflammatory diseases could someday be treated with medication containing a molecule from maple syrup. Researchers at Université Laval in Canada demonstrated in a recent study that quebecol, a molecule found in maple syrup, has interesting properties for fighting the body’s inflammatory response. Discovered in 2011, quebecol is the result of chemical reactions during the syrup-making process that transform the naturally occurring polyphenols in maple sap. The researchers carried out tests that showed quebecol curbs the inflammatory response of blood cells called macrophages, and some derivatives are even more effective than the original molecule. “This paves the way for a whole new class of anti-inflammatory agents, inspired by quebecol, that could compensate for the low efficacy of certain treatments while reducing the risk of side effects,” says researcher and chemist Normand Voyer. The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters.