London - The next time your child pesters you for the latest expensive toy, direct them towards the stationery drawer.

While parents are spending thousands on hi-tech gadgets to entertain their children, experts say they would be better off giving them an old-fashioned box of odds and ends.

They have come up with a list of eight items, worth £6.12 (about R81), which they say will stimulate children’s imaginations and be better for their development.

Their conclusion may come as a relief to cash-strapped parents.

In a report on the effect of the modern world on children’s play, child development experts found that the average family spends £10,021 (about R134 000) on toys before a child turns 18.

Parents with two children therefore spend more than £20,000 – enough for a deposit on a house.

By contrast, the report’s ‘pocket playground’ contains eight low-cost items:

Coloured embroidery threads

Coloured paper

Drawing pencils

Wooden shapes or building blocks



Cardboard pieces

Toy figures.

It can be adapted for at least 50 activities, ranging from making friendship bracelets to building castles.

In the report, Sally Goddard Blythe, a neuropsychologist, said there was now ‘less play that develops gross and fine motor skills, less robust, physical play experiences and less social interaction and communication’.

Screen-based activities now ‘dominate’, with television, DVDs and electronic gadgets emerging as the most popular forms of entertainment.

It means children may be less likely to develop problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, dexterity and creativity. Only one in 20 older girls, for example, ever make anything with a kit, such as a model plane.

The trend for children to play with expensive toys – rather than household items or things they have found – starts as early as three, the report said. These can include toddler-sized motorised cars or mini tablet computers.

Mrs Goddard Blythe, of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, said parents were ‘seduced into thinking that the more they spend, the better their parenting’.

In fact, exploratory play using cheap multi-purpose items is far more beneficial to children’s development than costly toys and gadgets, she said.

The report, commissioned by the makers of Ribena Plus, found that advertising, competitive parenting and peer pressure on children were driving parents to spend more and more on toys.

Despite this, of the 2,004 parents polled, 71 percent said they thought their own low-tech ‘simpler’ childhoods were more fun. But 17 percent said they felt like ‘not a good enough parent’ if they could not afford to buy their child the latest craze. - Daily Mail