Children today are growing up surrounded by technology from infancy. But even in a digital world, research has found that it’s crucial for kids to draw on classic play patterns that they have enjoyed for decades — such as coddling a doll, kicking or throwing a ball and learning to follow the rules of a board game.
The world may have changed in today’s digital age, but playing in classic ways is essential for children to reach healthy physical, cognitive, social and emotional developmental milestones. However, with so many technological toy options, it’s more challenging than ever for parents to choose playthings that kids can understand and that will help them develop critical skills they need to mature.
“In many ways, it’s a Golden Age for children and play. There are more options — physical toys, games, digital devices and content — than ever before. But there’s a downside to more play options. Too many choices make it harder to find high-quality toys ideally suited to a specific child’s needs, interests and abilities,” says David Kleeman, an ambassador with The Genius of Play, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to promoting the importance of play in children’s learning and development.
The solution is to ask yourself some key questions when reviewing toy options, especially those loaded with the latest technologies, say the experts at The Genius of Play. Here are some things to consider that are important for child development:
• Does a doll that’s equipped with technology change the way your child can play with it? Can the doll still be carried, fed and bathed? If the doll uses artificial intelligence to “communicate” with children, does this guide or restrict the conversation so much that it’s no longer spontaneous or imaginative?
• Does a ball with added technology make it difficult to roll, throw or kick? If so, is it in fact still a ball?
• Does a digital board game make all the decisions so that the players are left watching the computer play?
• Is a screen-based construction app like a bottomless box of pieces with which the child can freely envision and create, or is building limited to a few pre-programmed models?
The benefits of play are numerous and experts urge parents to return to one main consideration when choosing a new plaything, regardless of the amount of technology it has: what is the child’s contribution versus the value that the toy adds?
More tips and advice for play ideas to help children develop can be found at www.TheGeniusofPlay.org.
By choosing the right toys for your children, you can help them build confidence, creativity, critical thinking and other skills that will serve them throughout their lives.