Gone are the days when a few stuffed animals, some dolls or some trucks and a set of blocks would have been the basic toys a child would have in his or her room. Today’s average child’s room will have these things plus at least two or three electronic toys, whether that’s just for play or educational play.
Toys aren’t just for fun today. There is a growing emphasis on starting babies to learn just a few months after they are born. Once upon a time a doll was something simple and cute for a child to hold. Now the dolls can talk, eat and go to the bathroom. Teddy bears were just a sweet friend. Now some teddy bears have become teachers. For many years, educational toys have meant blocks, beads, puzzles, and balls. These toys help children learn about color, shape and numbers by allowing children to explore the concepts of bigger and smaller, less and less. But that was “yesterday”.
Today, toys that don’t usually have a typical connection to technology are being wired again. There is a new generation of soft toys and dolls that are now linked to Internet sites so that children can cuddle and dress them up one minute, and then connect them online to social networks the next minute.
Over the past five years there has been a significant increase in the number of tech-enabled toys available to babies that make the original Tickle Me Elmo and Baby Born look like ancient relics. Children have become key consumers, so it’s only natural that children’s toys move at the same pace as adult technology.
Some parents, as well as some in the educational field, may think that with so much technology a child doesn’t have the opportunity to be truly creative. It seems that everything has already been done for them or is easily done by pressing a few buttons. Years ago kindergarten and preschool were mainly about play. Parents today expect their children’s daycare to have at least two or three computers along with a good curriculum for learning.
Some toys may be educational, but what do children think of these toys? “Many who have studied children and toy technology say that children are really fascinated by new technologies. When they are involved in creative play with technologically advanced toys, they can learn and have fun. While it may be true, the question is. is: are they really? having more fun than other kids before all this new toy technology, or were they just “programmed” that way?