Tips For Selecting Toys In The Digital Age
If you’ve flicked through any of the latest toy catalogues (and they’re everywhere at the moment as we approach Christmas time), then you may have also noticed just how many “techno-toys” there are these days.
I recently conducted my own mini-research study at home using the latest toy catalogues that had accumulated in our letter-box (I know, I know, I’m a self-confessed nerd). My “research” indicated that approximately 70% of these catalogues, from major department stores, were battery-operated toys.
Some may call them “techno-toys”.
And this startled me, as both a children’s technology researcher and as a mum.
We now have teddy bears with mobile phones attached to their paws and pretend tablet devices for babies. Tablets for babies. That seems crazy to me!
Now don’t get me wrong, my children do have techno-toys. We’ve been abruptly woken up in the middle of the night by a talking teddy bear thinking that there was a burglar in the house (I’m sure it’s a rite of passage for parents these days). So I’m not suggesting that techno-toys are “bad”. Not for one minute. They definitely have their place. But we do need to think beyond always offering techno-toys. Children still need traditional, “analogue” toys, even in the digital age.
Techno-toys aren’t necessarily superior. Yet the marketing hype around many of these products suggests otherwise. Parents are led to believe that purchasing particular toys will give your child an educational “head start”.
We need to give our little ones a variety of toys. There’s no rush to introduce screens and digitalise all aspects of childhood, I believe. We need to get the balance right and select toys based on what they offer children (not whether they’re battery-operated or “interactive”).
What should parents look for in quality toys for young children?
90% child and 10% toy. This is a simple formula you can apply before you purchase toys for your child. You want your child to think and interact with toys. You don’t want the toy doing all the hard work for your child. Avoid toys that don’t promote thinking skills, problem-solving or interaction.
Does the toy allow your child to play and interact with others? Play is such a powerful and important way for children to acquire language and is essential for brain development.
Does the toy encourage language development? The latest neuroscience confirms that developing brains need to hear and use language. And lots of it. Toys can, if they’re well-designed encourage children to interact. They may interact with the toy itself, or a sibling, or a peer. This meaningful interaction can help to develop essential language skills.
I’d love for you to share some of your child’s favourite toys- analogue or digital toys. Why do you think that they like them so much?