How to choose the right tech toy for your kids

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A tech toy does not equate to a smartphone with games on it. Here are some educational alternatives.

Times have changed, parents. While most of us grew up without electronics and relied on friends or simple objects and the great outdoors for fun, children nowadays grow up with technology all around them. There are a lot of tips out there on choosing the right and safest toy, but what about electronic gadgets for kids?

Are there good ones out there for kids? Truth is, there is. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons. We already know that electronic gadgets for kids is mostly frowned upon – but why?

Electronic gadgets for kids aren’t the best for their development

Nowadays, technology has entered every aspect of our lives. So much so that infants are also exposed to technology well before they enter adolescence and adulthood. Still, even though we’ve ushered a new digital era, research has shown that playtime is critical to a child’s development. And we’re not talking about sophisticated play. It’s simple things like hugging dolls, or throwing and kicking a ball.

Technology might have reshaped the world, but these classic recreations are necessary for kids to develop cognitively, socially and emotionally in a normal way. But we can’t escape the clutches of technology. Their entrance into the toy industry is just another inevitable event- leading to an enormous amount of choices out there.

It’s not easy for parents today to choose a suitable toy for their kid. In particular, a toy that their child will be able to understand and support them in learning new skills required for maturity. 

According to David Kleeman, an ambassador with not-for-profit organisation, The Genius of Play, play is critical in helping a child learn and develop. Kleeman says we’ve entered “a Golden Age for children and play”, with a variety of choices such as “physical toys, games, digital devices and content” compared to the past. 

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Whether it’s a distraction to keep them occupied or for developmental purposes, electronic gadgets for kids are becoming more common in this age. | Image Source: Stock Photos

However, having additional options might not always be a good thing. Kleeman explains that “Too many choices make it harder to find high-quality toys ideally suited to a specific child’s needs, interests and abilities.”

At this point we know better which non-tech toys are are safe or good for our children. However, it’s not so clear for electronic gadgets for kids. Which brings us to the next question…

 

How, then, can we choose the right electronic gadget for kids?

1. Ask yourself the right questions

Experts from The Genius of Play recommend parents to ask themselves some important questions when selecting a toy equipped with the latest technology. Consider asking yourself these questions before assessing whether a that electronic gadget for kids will benefit their development or not:

  • If a doll is improved with technology, does it alter the ways your child plays with it?
  • Does the doll function like a real baby – such that kids can carry, feed, or bathe it?
  • Perhaps the doll is embedded with artificial intelligence so that it can “talk” with children. Will this form of interaction guide conversations? Or will it narrow it down such that interacting with the doll eventually doesn’t become spontaneous or imaginative?
  • Will it be a challenge to roll, throw or kick a ball incorporated with technology? If this is the case, can still be called a ball? 
  • Can a digital board game that decides the course of the game on its own? Will children gain skills or have fun just by watching the computer play?
  • Some construction apps allow kids to make their own models. Do these screen-based apps exercise your child’s imagination and creativity to make their own models? Or are there a limited number of pre-programmed models that they can only build?
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When is an electronic gadget for kids really a good substitute for real world experience, and when is it not? | Image Source: Stock Photo

2. Additional pointers to think about

Kleeman, while visiting the Nurnberg Toy Fair also managed to have some profound revelations which parents can learn from:

  • Don’t use tech devices to replace experience obtainable from reality which you know is better. 
  • Electronic gadget for kids should provide an experience neither toy nor screen can do on its own. 
  • The best electronic gadgets for kids doesn’t necessarily have the most advanced technology. Rather, they specifically cater technology that best suits their goals. 
  • Eletronic gadgets for kids that have good designs should provide opportunities for the child to play with it in a dynamic way. A good example would be using augmented reality to control an “evolved ball”. While it looked fun, such technology could push kids away from the most flexible and creative toy from ancient times: the ball.

3. The three C’s to consider

Overall, Kleeman distills his reflections into simple questions for parents to ponder about when they choose electronic gadget for kids:

  • Content: In what way does this electronic gadget for kids stimulate children to engage, express, imagine, or explore?
  • Context: In what way does the electronic gadget for kids add on to, and not interrupt, a child’s natural play? 
  • The Unique Child: Parents need additional support in selecting the right toys according to the child’s needs and abilities. How do we do that by outlining what was originally intended in making the toy, rather than exaggerating what the possible outcomes of using it?

The bottom line

Play supports a child’s development in a variety of ways, so it’s important you choose the right toys for your child. When in doubt, experts urge parents to ask themselves the most important question before buying a toy – technological or not. That is, “What is the child’s contribution versus the value that the toy adds?”

Toys are more than just distractions. Toys for children can also support them in becoming confident, creative, and learning many other skills which will help them later on in life.

Here at theAsianparent though, we recommend parents to try out STEM toys. These are toys based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM, for short). They’re guaranteed to make your kids learn and have fun at the same time! We’ve included the non-technological options this time round.

 

Try these STEM toys and electronic gadgets for kids

 
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Instead of not-so-good electronic gadgets for kids, why not try toys that can instill both fun and better learning for science? | Image Source: Screenshot from Business Insider

 

1. ThinkFun Circuit Maze Board Game

Need a high tech game that’s more affordable? Try out the ThinkFun Circuit Maze Board Game, which is able to keep children playing without hurting your wallet too much. 

The game works like this: players are instructed to take challenge cards  from a deck of cards. They then have to try and create a circuit that can function on the game board, while being the same as what the card says.  matching the card that will match the card. 

Benefits: Not too pricy for a tech toy. It can also keep children entertained for hours, has a balanced spread of simple and difficult tasks. These tasks foster kids to think and problem solve, and piques their interest in learning about circuitry. 

Drawbacks: The toy doesn’t consistently light up with its circuitry,

Price: 21.92 USD, as from Amazon

 

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Image Source: MoMA

2. MoMA Design Store Colourful Backgammon Set 

Backgammon is a game that has helped both the young and old alike in mastering mathematic and problem-­solving skills for nearly a 100 years. The Museum of Modern Art’s has designed the set such that it incorporates a bright, rainbow-colour. It’s a good way to use up free time with your kids. Not only can you have fun, but your kids will also get to learn how to add, subtract, make strategic decisions and the importance of probability.

Benefits: Teaches your kids maths and how to strategise!

Price: 89 USD (from the official MoMa website)

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Image Source: Amazon

3. Crayola Colour Chemistry Lab Set

Melting crayons have always had a fun and science role in primary school experiments. Now, Crayola has made a real chemistry set. The box comes with 16 activities that don’t need any additional items. It also comes with 34 more which only need household ­ingredients -like volcanoes that blow up and glowing worms.

Benefits: Helps kids learn basic chemistry while exploring the wonders of how things react with one another!

Price: 23.49USD when purchased from Amazon

 

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Here’s one electronic gadgets for kids that involves more than games and screens! | Image Source: Screenshot from Business Insider

4. The tech kit that lets you build your own computer: Kano Computer Kit

Building a model car, or using LEGO sets for making things is fun. But if you want to take it up a notch in terms of tech, why not try the DIY Kano Computer Kit?

The kit comes with a full set of parts to build the mini-computer that operates using a Raspberry Pi 3 processor.  Pre-teen children can easily build the computer with little assitance from their parents. The Kano Computer kit is good for 6-year-olds and older kids.

Benefits: 

  • Kids would be able to admire, and be captivated by the variety of components that makes the computer functional
  • The computer kit comes with a full-set of equipment which, once correctly put together, can be connected to another screen HDMI connectable screen for display. 
  • Children can better deduce how computers function as they assemble it.
  • The kit comes with a good nice set of tools to help kids learn how to program, other resources, instructions to make it, and it’s kid-friendly.
  • Keeps your children away from boredom since you can have many activities after building it. 

Drawbacks: It’s actually more costly compared to buying the parts on your own. 

Price: 122.45 USD from Amazon

References: Times of Oman, Wired, Museum of Modern Art, Amazon, Fred Rogers Centre, Business Insider

 

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