Apps vs Toys for Children: A Speech Pathology Perspective

If you’re unsure about whether or not to use apps or toys with your children, as professionals who work with children every day – we’re here to help.


Our Brisbane speech pathologists and occupational therapists use a range of toys and apps to help children achieve their goals in therapy. In this blog we will talk about the benefits and challenges for using toys and apps when you’re playing with your child at home.


Benefits and Challenges of Apps and Toys


Apps and screens are ever present and children love them. Apps are a convenient mode of entertainment because most people have a device that they take with them everywhere.


However, it’s important to be aware that lots of screen time is not recommended for children. Children under 18 months should avoid screen time, 18-24 months may have media introduced to them under the supervision of an adult, and children aged 2-5 should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day (and solo media use should be avoided).


See the Raising Children Network and the Mayo Clinic websites for the full guidelines on screen time.

Benefits of apps:

  • Convenient and easily transportable
  • Can obtain some high-quality apps for free, or at a very small cost. For support choosing high-quality games/apps follow recommendations from the Mayo Clinic and seek information from organisations such as Common Sense Media.
  • Children are motivated by apps and screen time
  • Allows easy access to music and books which are both beneficial for child development when enjoyed with an adult.


Challenges of apps:

  • Not as valuable for brain development as play.
  • Phones/tablets are fragile and not as durable (or as easy to replace) as toys
  • Devices run out of batteries!
  • Too much screen time has been linked to irregular sleep patterns, behavioural problems, loss of social skills, and less time for play. See the Mayo Clinic for ideas on how to set limits on screen time.

Just like apps, children love playing with toys! Playing is one of a child’s main occupations and arguably one of the most important.


Play is fundamental in building problem solving skills, creativity, executive function skills, social skills and is an excellent platform for learning language.


Check our recent Cooee blogs for toys we recommend to develop motor skills, and early language.  

Benefits of toys:

  • Endless opportunities for creativity, imagination, and problem solving.
  • Easy to include others in play with toys and practice social skills such as turn taking, listening to instructions, and paying attention to others.  
  • Playing with toys is beneficial for your child’s brain development.
  • Children are motivated by toys and play time with you!

Challenges of toys:

  • Can be bulky to carry with you on the go.
  • Some toys can be expensive, however remember that the best toys are sometimes not “toys” at all (e.g. bed sheets to make a fort, or empty packing boxes to climb or race in). Remember that there are lots of second hand toys advertised on Facebook Marketplace, EBay, and Gumtree. You can also borrow books from your local library or toys from a toy library!

Key Takeaways…

It’s important to remember, that no matter what toys or apps you give your child to engage with the key to supporting their development is interaction with you.


Parents are their child’s first teachers, and your children learn social skills, play skills, and communication skills through interacting, watching, listening, and talking with you.

Toys and apps simply give you something to talk about, explain, interact or get creative with.

Keep in mind that to support your child’s development screen time should be limited (but not necessarily eliminated!!), and play with toys and people should be encouraged.


Most importantly, have fun playing and engaging with your child!

Stephanie Harris

Speech Pathologist