Traditional Toys versus Electronic Toys
Having a morning coffee, there we stood the two of us, giving out about the kids at home driving us mad. The conversation had started with: ‘The kids are driving us mad. All day long, they’re stuck to us like plasters and like a broken record, all we hear is’: Can I play with your phone? Can I play with your phone? ‘No, you can’t play with my phone’. Can I play with the coputer? Can I play with the coputer? ‘No, you can’t play with the computer’. Can I play with mommy’s phone?’
We spoke of our own very different childhoods and questioned whether all this technology was a good or bad thing for kids growing up nowadays. The Android phones, the tablet computers, the amount of television they watch and their exposure to social media.
When we were growing up, an Android was a human-like robot from science fiction, a tablet was for a sick person, a television was the size of a washing machine and it came with a remote control, with two arms, two legs and had a name: mine. As for social media, we simply answered the door bell or picked up the phone. Things are very different now and for the most part, much better.
As two colleagues who had worked together since 2008, we had often chatted about setting up a business together. We were both big kids at heart and had a particular desire to set up an online toy business. The idea had been on the drawing board for a long time and it was the conversation about the kids pestering us for the phone that was the catalyst that spurred us into action.
We didn’t grow up in this information overload age where children have their heads buried in a hand-held device, often with the television set on at the same time. We had grown up with simple toys that provided endless hours of fun as we escaped into our own imaginary worlds. We played on the streets with hoards of friends, climbed trees, robbed orchards, played hopscotch and other street games. Any simple item we found lying around was put to good use and the great outdoors provided us with worlds of discovery. Maybe my memory is fading but I don’t remember being bored.
The question still begged, was all this technology a good thing or bad thing for kids?
As parents with 5 young children between our two respective families, we really want our own children to grow up with more confidence than we ever had, to have more opportunities and importantly, to be competent in a rapidly evolving digital age. We are also keen for our children to enjoy the simple pleasures and to have wonderful, real memories of a childhood, as we did, filled with toys, play and laughter and not YouTube videos, game consoles or mind-numbing television.
Our quest for establishing an online toy business was to find and promote toys that actively engage a child’s entire being, supporting mental, emotional, physical and social development in children in ways that no electronic toy can do. We also wanted a business that encouraged play and imagination for all age groups, the young and not so young. Why should play and imaginary worlds be the exclusive domain of a child? Would we ever have heard of a Harry Potter were it not for the fantastic imagination of J.K. Rowling.
We started on our business path by researching articles about the benefits of traditional toys versus electronic toys. What we found was research suggesting that traditional playtime was reducing as children became increasingly caught up in the use of technology. Experts warned that parents who allow babies and toddlers to access tablet computers for several hours a day are in danger of causing “dangerous” long term effects. Children can become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour when the electronic devises are taken away (this sounded like our own home).
Years of extensive research from the renowned paediatric occupational therapist and child development expert Cris Rowan, provided further evidence that many of children’s school performance issues were related to increased use of TV, videogames, internet, cell phones and tablets, with child developmental delays and behavioural disorders continuing to escalate.
On the flipside, our research supported our beliefs that ‘all’ kids love playing with toys. More importantly, we found extensive reports supporting the countless benefits of a child ‘actively’ playing with toys, some of which include:
- Cognitive, language, reading, sensory, hand-eye and motor skill development
- Developing logic skills and strategic thinking through memory
- Developing the imagination and encourages co-operation, listening and taking turns
- Providing tactile stimulation (particularly for babies)
- Encouraging social skills like sharing and teamwork
- Toys help our children to discover their identity
- Actively playing with toys helps young bodies to grow strong
- Children learn cause and effect
- Children explore relationships through play and practice skills they will need as adults.
- Fun and interesting sound effects promotes auditory stimulation
- Toys heighten curiosity and encourage exploration
The list goes on, but there is conclusive evidence that playing with toys develops crucial life skills and prepares young brains for the challenges of adulthood.
Interestingly, adults use toys and play to form and strengthen social bonds, to teach, to remember, to explore relationships, to escape, to decorate their living and work spaces and in some cases, to collect for future prosperity.
As parents and co-founders of an online toy business, we are not against technology. Far from it! We very much believe it is and will increasingly be an essential tool in every child’s armoury. What we do believe is that technology needs to be carefully managed, particularly in the formative years of childhood. We also believe and know that there is no substitute for actively playing with toys. No matter what age you are!
‘Thank you for taking the time to read our story’. Mark Richardson and Peter Finnegan, Co-Founders of the Lifetime Toy Company. www.lifetimetoystore.com