Pioneering playtime: 5 predictions for future toys

In SciTech by Dominique LuchartLeave a Comment

Pioneering playtime: 5 predictions for future toys

Beyond robotic pets and flying, buzzing or remote-controlled gadgets, many of the trends in today’s toy industry hint at a future of playthings that…

Move over, Furby there are a whole new slew of toys on the market for tech-savvy tots.


Beyond robotic pets and flying, buzzing or remote-controlled gadgets, many of the trends in today’s toy industry hint at a future of playthings that put parents minds at ease that their children are actually learning something valuable during recess.

Below are a few of the trends in todays toy industry that give us a peek into the future of playtime.

In a digital and data-driven world, more and more toys seem to be geared toward STEM science, technology, engineering and math. Brands that have always encouraged kids (and adults) to become builders, like LEGO, are incorporating high-tech twists into products, and new brands like littleBits are on the rise.

App-integrated toys are also increasingly common. While some parents and educators worry about the implications of kids constantly connected to screens, toy manufacturers are taking advantage of this tendency for children to gravitate toward devices and adding a creative and educational element. Robot Turtles, for example, is a connected board game that teaches children programming through games and an interactive ebook.

One interesting suggestion from elementary school principal and author Rob Furman is perhaps even more future-forward than a focus exclusively on STEM: Furman calls for more of an emphasis on STREAM, which also includes reading and arts in the mix.

And it seems as if a number of emerging playthings today do place importance on fostering a child’s sense of creativity. The rise of 3D printing paves the way for endless possibilities for kids interested in experimenting with art, with devices like the 3Doodler and 3D Creation Maker hitting shelves.

For kids interested in music, toys like Compose Yourself transparent cards let kids become mini maestros. And for a world of imaginary possibilities, the new wearable Moff Band, designed for kids, adds sound effects to imagination play.

Recent backlash against gender-typed toys suggests that the industry may be on the brink of a new direction.

In an interview with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Dr. Judith Elaine Blakemore, a professor of psychology and expert in the development of gender roles, says that research suggests the genderization of toys can have an impact on a child’s development.

If you want to develop childrens physical, cognitive, academic, musical and artistic skills, toys that are not strongly gender-typed are more likely to do this, she says. Strongly gender-typed toys might encourage attributes that arent ones you actually want to foster. For girls, this would include a focus on attractiveness and appearance, perhaps leading to a message that this is the most important thing to look pretty. For boys, the emphasis on violence and aggression (weapons, fighting and aggression) might be less than desirable in the long run.

But even toys that are marketed toward one gender are now trying to reverse common stereotypes: Recent initiatives by brands like GoldieBlox, with the slogan, Lets get girls building, demonstrate a trend toward less princess-y products similarly, Roominate has been making headlines as a toy to get young girls interested in engineering. In a more equality-focused future, girls will no longer be relegated to the Barbie aisles of the toy store; no longer will boys be expected to play exclusively with Tinker Toys or Nerf guns.

Even old-school toy brands are going high-tech. Lionel Trains, a company thats been around for more than 100 years, is one such example: Todays model train enthusiasts can actually control their models via iPad or other connected device.

Crayola is another example of a traditional toy company adapting to modern times. The company recently unveiled Color Alive, an app-integrated program that brings kids creative projects off the page, with the promise to change coloring forever.

Building blanket forts just doesnt have the same appeal to kids today partially because there are much more inventive and high-tech ways for kids to fully immerse themselves in playtime.

The Lumo projector, for example, turns kids bedrooms or playrooms into interactive scenes. The projector, which is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, aims to make floors fun. Such a toy is perfect for parents who worry their kids are spending too much time sitting on the couch connected to their video game consoles.

And speaking of video games, while the future of gaming for kids is an entirely separate article, the rise of virtual reality is already making an impact on products aimed toward children, such as Google and Mattels attempt to reinvent the View-Master for the 21st century.

Its safe to say that the rise of VR will probably lead to way cooler versions of Mario Kart than millennials ever had growing up. I think I speak for all of us when I say: Jealous.


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