The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Those educational baby toys look great, but they may promise too much


It’s easy to look down at your bundle of joy and imagine a glowing future. Surely your child will be the best and brightest — and if you care about their intellectual development, you might try to smooth their path with an educational toy that promises to develop baby’s skills.

But are those toys a smart buy? Science writer Erik Vance takes on that question in the June edition of Scientific American. His article, “Sorry, Mom and Dad, Toys Cannot Supercharge Your Baby,” cuts down to size an industry that makes outsize promises and rakes in billions, and it may make you think twice before buying a toy that promises to make your baby a brainiac.

The idea of a “better” baby, writes Vance, is balderdash — and, he warns, a “disconnect between the research and marketing of child development” could mean you’re opening your wallet for no reason.

The gains promised by educational toys are seductive but worth your skepticism. Although it’s clear that play helps build children’s minds, says Vance, many toys marketed as educational aren’t backed by research.

To bridge that gap, he talked to child development experts to learn which toys can help your baby build skills and what kinds of claims should make you pause. Vance’s recommendations can help you master the toy aisle, but you’ll have to let go of a few of your delusions of infant grandeur first.

You can read his tips by buying the magazine or investing in a digital edition. Either way, it’s a small price to pay for a reality check that may save you lots of money.

Why it’s good to talk baby talk to your child

The type of book you read to your baby is important

Rapid sequencing of babies’ genes may save lives