Expert Advice

Toy Trouble or Toy Treasure – Does modern technology have a place at playtime?

Toy Trouble or Toy Treasure – Does modern technology have a place at playtime?

Many play purists argue that electronic toys could stifle imagination and are environmental no-no’s. But electronic and tech toys are very popular with children and are taking an increasing share of the toy market.

So we asked our expert , Child Psychologist, Doctor Amanda Gummer about the
appeal of electronic and tech toys and how consumers can judge whether they engage their children and promote positive development or just make annoying noises until the batteries die.

“The new age of tech in the toy box is not to be worried about. Like any type of toys these new technology focused playthings can be part of a healthy play diet as it is less about how a toy is made and more about the play patterns it encourages.

“There are some new kids tablets out now which can engage reluctant learners into educational activities but this needs complimenting with active, social and creative play. Some electronic toys increase activity levels and encourage children and others to promote social skills such as communication, sharing and turn-taking. There are even electronic toys that can help children with anger management issues and emotional development.”

Choosing the right gadgets

“When choosing an electronic toy, it’s a good idea to ask yourself what the technology adds to the play opportunity. Well-designed electronic toys use technology to add flexibility and individuality to play. Choices of play options as well as allowing for different abilities are great examples of how technology can make a toy more accessible and engage children in play activities for longer periods of time.”

Does tech have to be pricey?

“Budget can be a factor! Some parents can afford to provide standalone tech gadgets for their children and still provide a traditional toy box full of goodies, but others can’t. If this is the case then what ever the developmental qualities of the Tech toy are, parents should be wary of compromising traditional play. There are ways to have a technology playtime treat in a more affordable way.  This can be by using an existing tablet or smart phone under close supervision that provides a rewarding experience for both carer and child.” 

Green Issues

“The downside of electronic toys is the need for power – either in the form of batteries or mains supply. The solar and wind up powered electronic toys are great but limited in what they can do – there’s not yet a solar powered children’s tablet or scalextric! Therefore, the frustration of running out of charge/needing new batteries needs to be managed.  Parents can help children take responsibility for their belongings and save hours of whinging if, from the start, they give children the message that if they’re old enough to have a hi–tech toy, they’re old enough to ensure it’s charged/has sufficient batteries.  Getting children to save up for batteries is also a good way to help them learn to switch the toy off – again a valuable learning opportunity.

When is tech too much?

It’s all about balancing the play diet and providing children with the opportunity to develop a range of skills. Tech can be used in many areas of play, but it should be incorporated sensitively and add play value to a toy or game, not be an end in itself.  Tech becomes counter productive when it stifles imagination and creativity by providing too rigid play patterns.

So what’s my personal conclusion?

“The interactivity that electronic and new technology toys can provide is beneficial for children in lot’s of ways and can reinforce learning and promote positive development, as long as it’s not used as a substitute for human interaction. As with everything, it’s all about balance.”

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