Comparing Differences in Expressive Language Quantity and Quality between School-Aged Children Playing with Traditional and Electronic Toys

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Purpose: This preliminary study focuses on the expressive language of English-dominant, school-aged children playing with traditional and electronic toys. Method: Four English speaking children between the ages of 5;4 (year; month) and 8;9 were audio and video recorded during individual 20-minute sessions. Each played with age-appropriate toys of a favorite theme during two separate 20-minute sessions. Play sessions were formatted through random assignment of the type of toy (electronic or traditional) played with during each session. A language-sample analysis was conducted using Systematic Analysis of Language Transcriptions (SALT) software as well as manual calculations of targeted skills (total number of utterances, number of different words, topic maintenance, engagement, and topic initiation) to examine quantitative and qualitative comparisons of the language and interaction associated with each type of toy. Results: No notable differences were found in quantitative analysis after calculating data and qualitative analysis after interpreting language-samples. Aggregated total number of utterances and number of different words in play sessions comparing traditional versus electronic yielded similar results. Additionally, qualitative analysis considering engagement and initiation also indicated both types of toys produced relatively equivalent observations regarding discourse management. Conclusion: This preliminary study showed that play with neither the traditional nor electronic toy provided greater developmental benefits to typically developing school-aged children. Further studies should be conducted with a larger participant size in order to construct a more comprehensive conclusion regarding the effects of toy type on child language development.

Language development, Language quantity, Language quality, Language measures, Technology, Electronic toys, Traditional toys, Engagement, Initiation, Number of different words, Total number of utterances, Language sample