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.
Due to the nature of the toys that capture the imaginations of children and not necessarily adults, we’ve decided to review some great toys one by one, for the adults that buy them for the kids. Today’s blog post is the first in that series as we review the Pluï.
Pluï is a fun new water toy, perfect for summer as well as bath time. It’s a hard sphere with bumps, available in blue, yellow and green. At first I thought it looked a bit like a farm yard animal, maybe a cow or pig. But on closer inspection it becomes apparent that each little bump has a hole – and that’s where the fun starts!
Pluï makes rain. The name was developed from the french word pluie or rain. All you need to do is hold it under the water until it fills up. Pick it up using one finger to close off the single hole on the top of the toy. As you lift your finger to uncover the hole, rain starts to flow from the holes at the bottom of the toy. Persistent rain (until the water runs out). But this is where the fun comes in – stop the rain, or bob your finger up and down to create lighter drops or even drizzle. And if you have two or three pluï, and some friends, you could really create a downpour in the bath tub! Even tiny hands can manage two at a time.
Some little creative souls started their own version of Händel’s “Water Music”, each with their index finger tapping away at the top hole at a different speed to create their own rhythm as the drops hit the surface of the water. What fun! You see, moms and dads, it’s not about what the toy looks like to us, or what WE think it “does” or can be used for. A toy is merely an instrument with which a child’s imagination can be tapped. It provides a starting point from which they can create their own story.
As a paediatric occupational therapist, I have my own reasons for appreciating the design of Pluï. I like the size – similar to that of a tennis ball which gets a nice spherical grip with a large web space. This is something we’re always looking for to encourage strong hands and a good pencil grip later on. On top of that, I like the way the index (pointer) finger has to control the speed of the water flow. Individual finger movements are critical for the development of fine motor control and dexterity. If little hands are too tiny to manage that, a toddler can use two hands, one to hold and one to block the hole (great for bilateral integration). And water play as a medium is a lovely starting point for children with tactile defensiveness.
So whether you’re playing with your Pluï in the bathtub or in the swimming pool, have fun this summer. But remember – safety always comes first.
PS Here’s a video of some children playing with Pluï!
Wait but why: a blog about those toys from yesteryear..
So as I’ve mentioned before, we will not try to reinvent the wheel here. We’re quite happy to draw your attention to the works of others who seem to have a unique grip on the concepts of “play” and “toys” – whether those be old or new, popular or not. If you grew up in the 80s, then take the time to read this post from “wait but why”. Happy reminiscing!