As promised, here’s another look at some of the trends that were doing the rounds at the Nuremberg Toy Fair 2014. One of the identified trends, which didn’t take too much deep analysis to realise, was Tech Toys. It seems that every modern toy needs to be robotic or have its own app. Apps for all the latest toys are available on smartphones, and I’m not sure whether the presumption is that every child has their own phone, or whether parents are continually letting their kids use their phones as toys and babysitters?
I can definitely see the benefit in teaching a child to build a robot, and LEGO has some great construction-robotic combos which children can build from scratch and then learn to programme. There are also many apps geared towards teaching children a foreign language, such as English, and this can really have major advantages for parents who do not speak the language themselves. The problem I have with tech toys, is when they start to turn play into a one-dimesional activity, bombarding only one or two senses (vision and hearing), and leaving the rest to rot.
Take for example a doll with fairy wings which has become very popular in recent years. Now that the app is available, you need not take the actual toy along with you in the car. Your child’s doll can fly through virtual forests by tipping the phone or tablet to negotiate the pathways. Or what about the latest Tamagotchi? This undersized toy need not come along either, as there is an app linked to the toy while you’re out, making sure that it is still fed as necessary. We have apps that scan books and read your children bedtime stories, and puzzles that can be built by swiping your finger across the screen rather than rotating and orientating the wooden pieces in your hand. Is the ultimate goal for parents and caregivers to be replaced by electronic devices?
Yes we live in smaller spaces and yes our children will need to know how to use technology. But if we keep on feeding them technological junk food, the basis of their human existence, their health, their ability to sit, stand, run, feel, and explore is going to be stunted. What are the motives behind the development of these toys? Is it really childhood education as I was told multiple times by their vendors, or is it money, capitalising on parents’ need to make sure their children are ahead of the pack? It’s a dangerous virtual game we’re playing.