Lets Talk about Electronic Toys for Children
Despite a recent backlash by play purists who argue that electronic toys stifle imagination and are environmental no-no’s, electronic toys are very popular with children and are taking an increasing share of the toy market.
So what is the appeal of the electronic toys and how can consumers judge whether an electronic toy will engage their children and promote positive development or just make annoying noises until the batteries die.
Electronic toys for children, like any type of toys can be part of a healthy play diet. It’s 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 in educational activities but this needs complimenting with active, social and creative play. Some electronic toys increase activity levels, encouraging children and others can 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.
In our research, whilst we found that the majority of respondents to our survey identified their favourite toy as one that didn’t have batteries, some people said that their favourite toy did have batteries but you could still play with it when the batteries had died. This has interesting implications for designers of electronic toys – does the toy still provide good play opportunities even without the electronic component?
There’s an increasing demand for environmentally responsible toys and electronics can struggle with this, but solar powered and wind up toys are becoming increasingly widely available, giving kids the fun of the lights and sounds without giving parents the expense or environmental concerns associated with batteries.
When choosing an electronic toy for children, 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. A choice 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.
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 and 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.
The interactivity that electronic 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!
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer