They [iPads] have overtaken dolls, action figures, board games and other traditional toys–and experts say their popularity is still rocketing. ~Mark Prigg, “How the iPad Replaced the Toy Chest: Researchers Find Children Play with Touchscreens More than Traditional Toys.” Daily Mail. February 21, 2014.
With the announcement that Toys ‘R’ Us is filing for bankruptcy, and taking measures to redefine itself, the overlooked concern is that children are no longer keen on toys. They prefer iPads.
This is certainly troubling when it comes to child development. If it’s hard to believe, here are quotes from both America and the UK as evidence:
- Toys ‘R’ Us kids made the store great, Toys ‘R’ Us grandkids aren’t shopping there anymore. Instead, they’re shopping online — and when they do it’s for electronics, not games, dolls and gizmos. Daily News. September 19, 2017
- And children are increasingly moving more toward mobile devices as playthings. “For many children, electronics have become a replacement or a substitute for traditional toys….” Chicago Tribune. September 19, 2017.
- More than half of the young children in the U.S. now have access to an iPad, iPhone or similar touch-screen device. For parents, their children’s love of these devices raises a lot of questions. The Wall Street Journal. May 22, 2012.
- Touchscreen devices got the most overall playtime according to the poll, with more than 60 percent of parents claiming that their child uses a touchscreen ‘often’ and roughly 38 percent claiming ‘very often.” Touchscreens are the primary play activity now…” Daily Mail. February 21, 2014.
- Have you ever seen a 4-year-old play with an iPhone? It’s actually kind of shocking. Kids take to the iPhone’s multitouch user interface like they do trucks or dolls. They instinctively know that the iPhone is a toy, and they nag, cajole and harass their parents into letting them play with it. “Why iPad is the Children’s Toy of the Year.” PCWorld. March 11, 2010.
Toys ‘R’ Us is the main supplier of toys. You may not like them. Most of their toys are made in China. Many were disappointed when Toys ‘R’ Us acquired FAO Schwarz and shut down the NYC store. And, of course, going bankrupt doesn’t mean they’re closing for good. Their restructuring plans are all over business media.
And adults and children seem materialistic and unhinged when nothing will do but the latest Elmo doll (I’ve been there).
But this isn’t about any of that.
Toys! How can a child not love toys? These gentlemen want to know! Surely children haven’t forgotten them!
Blame the iPads!
Toys are important to children and how they grow. Good development comes about from playing with toys. Toys are the critical tools and instruments of play. If children no longer care about toys, chances are they aren’t playing either!
Toys involve games, blocks. Lincoln Logs, puzzles, Legos, hula hoops, jump ropes, stuffed animals, dolls, doll houses, tops, wagons, models, pogo sticks, you name it.
Toys involve clutter. Parents are forever stepping on Legos and tripping over Lincoln Logs. You can cuss at those toys all you want, but do not deny you child the chance to play with toys.
By the way, we know it’s fine to give a child a Lego kit to build and follow directions, but it’s also good to let them build whatever they want without following any directions! Kids don’t always play with toys in a coordinated matter. They mix up the dolls with blocks and the Legos with the Lincoln logs. They use their imagination.
And don’t scoff at Barbie. Have you ever tried dressing one? It takes more fine motor skill than an engineer putting together a circuit board! It’s also nice to see that Barbie is out in a variety of skin, cultures and body types.
I still have my Barbie and Midge dolls because my grandmother made their clothes. Still can’t believe the time it took for her to do that for me.
While it’s true that iPads are neat and will mesmerize a child, question whether that trance known as the “flow experience,” meaning ultimate engagement, is good for a toddler or preschooler on a device. Should children be so deeply involved on their tablet that they are not aware of their surroundings? Of course not!
It’s time to put those tablets aside and ensure that children are developmentally learning with toys and play.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) discuss toys, and they provide a link describing toys for children at different developmental stages. They also provide a link about research concerning gender-type toys.
What is a favorite toy you remember? Can you describe examples of homemade toys? What items around the house can safely be used as toys?
One of my favorites is Bug Out Bob. I used it to help one of my students with physical disabilities work on her grasp. It challenged her. But mostly it made us laugh.
We cannot give up on toys for children. It will be giving up on childhood itself. What toys did you play with as a child?
Prigg, Mark. “How the iPad Replaced the Toy Chest: Researchers Find Children Play with Touchscreens More than Traditional Toys.” Daily Mail. February 21, 2014.
“Toys ‘R’ Us Files for Bankruptcy, but Keeps Stores Open. Daily Mail. September 19, 2017.
D’Innocenzio, Anne and Bill Cormier. “Toys ‘R’ Us Files for Bankruptcy but Keeps Stores Open. Chicago Tribune. September 19, 2017.
Dziemianowiz, Joe. “Toys ‘R’ Us Kids Grew Up, and Their Children Shop Online. Daily News. September 19, 2017.
Worthen, Ben. “What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad?” The Wall Street Journal. May 22, 2012.
Elgan, Mike. “Why iPad Is the ‘Children’s Toy of the Year.” PCWorld. March 11,2010.