My 3½-year-old son shows more interest in playing with computers and video games than he does with toys. He's been playing electronic games since he was a year old and is actually very good at it. Is this healthy? Should I encourage him to play with toys more?
I think so. A 3½-year-old will acquire far more age-appropriate skills through playing with toys, with other children, and with the important adults in his life, than he will through a constant dose of video games. It sounds as though he is very bright and inquisitive, and I am not suggesting that the computer or the video games will blunt his creativity. I think the potential harm associated with too much video activity is not what it does to the child, but is what he doesn’t get to do if he spends all of his play time at a keyboard or console. Think of all the skill development that occurs as children play with their toys—eye-hand coordination, language development, social skills, and imagination. These are benefits that are clearly associated with age-appropriate toys, and children need time with toys if they are to occur.
Perhaps you haven’t made enough interesting toys and books available to him. If he already has an interesting array, I would strongly urge you to limit the amount of time he can spend with the video games (an hour a day would seem the absolute maximum to me). Then see if that doesn’t send him to his toy shelf. If it doesn’t, don’t overlook the value of getting down on the floor and playing with him.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.