You probably played with Lego and building blocks as a kid. You’d built intricate cities with buildings and skyscrapers, roads and bridges, cars and trucks, restaurants and businesses. Even suburbs so Lego people had housing and lifestyle diversity, accompanied with manicured lawns and a car in every driveway. You probably imagined an entire world with its own culture, language, and people. And that was just the tip of the iceberg of what could be imagined with Lego and building blocks.
Fast forward to 2016; it would be a stretch to say that kids nowadays are having this much fun with blocks. They have no screen, no audio, and no Bluetooth connectivity – what gives! The average 10 year old wouldn’t even know what to do with them.
So what happened to imagination? It seems that the simplicity of playing outside and ‘making your own fun’ is an idea of the past. Kids are craving more, at a faster pace, and demanding a variety of entertainment. There’s an apparent ‘hand holding’ that’s happening with digital and smart toys.
The truth is, the way we learn, live, and play has changed. Our lives are running at a faster pace, and we’re able to consume and retain information in lightning speed. We have productivity apps so our appointments and grocery lists are recorded, and we have smart watches so we can chat and work on the go. It’s the age of the bot and this allows us to be faster, smarter, more productive, and experts at multitasking.
Little ones are no exception to this. When you were 10, you may have been building intricate cities with blocks, but today’s 10-year-olds are learning how to code and build mobile applications. When you have a question about your smartphone or computer, it’s said that you should ask the youngest person in the room. What we’re seeing is simple, the introduction of new technology brings with it a shift in how a child uses their imagination. It’s understood that technology tends to do everything for kids and they begin to rely on it. The ‘hand holding’ effect takes away their ability to learn how to do things on their own. But if used correctly, technology (including digital toys, apps, etc.) can facilitate a dynamic, multi-faceted learning experience filled with creativity and imagination building. It’s not the tool or technology that’s to blame; it’s how it is used. The iPad is the perfect example; allowing a child to binge watch cartoons is unproductive to say the least, but watching an interactive educational video requires the use of many great skills.
Don’t blame children for being drawn to tech gadgets and digital toys. In fact, they can competently use tablets and television remotes before they can even recite the alphabet. Digital toys, apps, and technology help develop fine motor skills, foster imagination, learning, and communication just as much as their non-digital counterparts.
Diana Aquino is a Marketing and Project Management professional with extensive experience in mobile, app analytics, and marketing strategy. She’s worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, helping apps reach top ranks. You can reach her on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.