In this category feature, Rachael Simpson-Jones asks how tech enhances play and learning, and whether you can have too much of a good thing.
Technology in toys can be varied in its complexity and presentation, from subtle lights and sounds to programmable motion and interactivity, but generally speaking, it’s there for one of two core purposes – entertainment or education.
The application of tech to toys is not a recent development – many readers will have had walking, talking robots and backflipping dogs in their toyboxes decades ago – but it’s fair to say the way it’s being applied is becoming ever more innovative, especially when it comes to education. Over the past year, more parents and caregivers than ever before have begun to appreciate that toys can genuinely boost learning outcomes, and this year they can choose from a raft of new offerings that introduce key concepts to kids from a young age, all through the power of tech.
SmartLab’s George Scott believes that the best toys allow children to add their own individual insights, problem-solving skills, divergent thinking and perseverance to their play, allowing for open-ended experimentation and repeat enjoyment. He told us: “SmartLab toys encourage children to experience wonder, test the unknown and increase their understanding through hands-on exploration.”
Character Options’ marketing manager Mark Hunt notes that while today’s kids tend to be tech savvy, it’s important not to overcomplicate a toy or make them too difficult to operate. In his opinion, kids want to be fully in control of their play, and therefore prefer tech toys that are responsive, interactive, easy to use and, most importantly, fun. “Not all tech solutions transfer into toys – we’ve seen a lot come and go,” he explained. “The blend of tech and play needs to be seamless and not disruptive. Yes, kids today want the latest tech at their fingertips, but they also need toys that will stimulate their thirst for imaginative play and fantasy play.”
George and Mark’s thoughts are joined by those of representatives from LeapFrog, Tonies, Scalextric and Learning Resources. To read more comment on the Tech sector, and to find out about the latest impressive tech toys which will be bringing fun and learning to kids over the coming months, click here. This feature appears in the July edition of Toy World.