As any good financial advisor will tell you, the key to wealth management is to diversify your portfolio by investing in different assets. The same can be said about a child’s “playfolio.” With the great strides in innovation and technology that parents see today in children’s toys, it’s important to keep diversification top-of mind when investing in your child’s playtime, and ultimately, their future.
We recently attended an industry conference where it was apparent that a line was being drawn in the sandbox – die-hard traditionalist on one side, and proponents of technology and “connected play” on the other. The traditionalists want to see children participating in more open-ended, creative play. Arts and crafts, building toys and blocks, toy cars and trucks, all fall into this category. Connected play, on the other hand, is fueled by virtual worlds, toys integrated seamlessly with apps, robots and the latest technological innovation, all of which is second nature to today’s kids. And this is where the battle is brewing.
So how do you balance the influx of technology with traditional play? It’s all in the way you play. Take video games, for example. According to Dr. Eric Klopfer, MIT Professor and the Director of The Education Arcade, “Games are so much more than the simple action of running and jumping on a screen. They engage kids in problem solving, present challenging tasks and teach kids about failure when they lose. Games immerse children in a setting where they have to wrestle with problems and solve them in real time, much like they will need to learn to do in real life.” So yes, even video games can be considered “good for you” as long as they are part of a balanced playfolio.
Innovation is happening in the traditional side of the toy aisle as well, and when traditional play is infused with technology and innovation, not just for technology’s sake, but to enhance the play experience, that’s when the magic truly happens. For example, our client VTech’s line of Go! Go! Smart Wheels playsets and vehicles, while harnessing the power of traditional play, also includes just the right touch of technology that creates a truly engaging play experience.
So with the proliferation of technology in the toy sector, one could assume that traditional play is going away. Rest assured; it is not. Anyone who has children can attest. Just try to keep a seven-year-old glued to the couch for a prolonged period of time and you’ll see just how much weight that theory holds! A child that is consumed with building a robot will just as likely run and play in the backyard if given the chance. As the toy aisle evolves, we’ll start to see the best of traditional toys and technological innovations unite to create engaging play experiences. It’s these experiences, tied together, that will bring about the evolution of the toy industry. As a parent, the challenge is to invest in your child’s future by mixing traditional, open-ended, creative play with the right amount of technology and innovation. Together, it creates a well-balanced playfolio.
Brian and Sue Murphy are Co-Directors of Toy Practice at Coyne PR