Will childhood toys become a thing of the past?

When we were children, we loved playing with toys. We may not have had many but we loved what we were given, whether it was plastic army men, dolls, wooden puzzles or spinning tops. We also loved going outside and playing with our brothers and sisters, and climbing trees. We had great childhoods in the sun. But now, it feels as if children are steering away from the toys we loved and the play (although there are many who do enjoy it) and it can leave grandparents with a sense of loss.

Our role as grandparents is constant evolving – when they’re babies we nurse them, play little games, read to them, and suddenly they’re 5 or 6 and have an iPad and have all these activities to go to and we don’t get that quality time with them. Even more so now that the technological era is well and truly upon us. There is such a joy in being a grandparent and playing with your grandchildren but we often read comments and blogs that tell of how young kids would rather use their iPad or phone than do other activities or play with toys.

It begs the question, should we just download an app so we can communicate or be the best grandparent we can be? Many of us on Starts at 60 download apps such as Skype or FaceTime to keep in touch but like any child, they can grow bored of that and want to go onto the next thing. Yet the crux of the issue for grandparents is we don’t have that ‘floor time’ anymore as technology sort of robs us of it. When our older grandchildren or children were younger, we could play Barbies or trucks on the floor but now we need to play apps on an iPad with them, and it all feels a bit sad. Toys are intrinsically linked to childhood and there’s that sense of loss in it all when a child no longer wants to play with blocks and wants to graduate to an adult device. They’re growing up so fast…and much faster than we’re used to.

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Even the advent of television and its true effect on hands-on play has been documented. A University of Massachusetts study examined toddlers and their parents into a room with a television, coffee table, couch and shelf of toys, including a Fisher-Price school bus with Little People, stacking cups, dolls, and a children’s broom and dustpan set. The researchers studied how deeply and for how long these children — ages 1, 2 and 3 — played with toys under two conditions: 30 minutes with the TV on and 30 minutes with it TV off. Whilst the parents were in the room too, they couldn’t direct what their child did or get too involved. Instead, they had to either watch TV or read themselves. The researchers found that while the toddlers initially were more interested in the toys than the TV, they played less overall with each toy. When the TV was off, play increased and was more meaningful i.e. was not just putting toys in the mouth or banging them.

“Just because your child is not staring at the TV, mouth open with toy dropped, that doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting how deeply they are playing, Marie Evans Schmidt, author of Child Development, told Time. 

And the same goes for modern technology such as tablet or phone games and apps in place of toys and although it has been proven that playing some word and number games boosts memory, parents and grandparents playing with children might actually save their future as well as their own.

In a more positive light, there really are many options available today for innovative play experiences and discovery if we open our minds to the possibilities.

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So it is clear it’s more important that a child is stimulated in enough ways that they don’t have to be attached to screen (phone or TV) or not always attached to one toy. If we want our grandchildren to be able to think creatively, think outside-the-box, or just be able to think and be ready to participate in the future and help create tomorrow’s innovations, we need to be open minded and not worry that times are changing too much.

All we can do is love them and encourage activities that will form them into creative, intelligent, loving people.


What do you think? Are the toys of yesterday gone forever? Or do we just need to get creative to keep our grandchildren stimulated?