Strategies for Teachers & Parents
Scientists have found the importance of toys and play in childhood development. Toys are like “learning instruments” – objects that stimulate children’s imagination and help them develop socially and intellectually. Thus it is not a surprise that many new kid’s toys are cause for concern for those who care for their children. Those Interactive toys which are equipped with microchips have the ability to respond to input from each other, from the environment, and from children themselves. They transform these toys from passive items into units that can engage in forms of conversation and play with kids.
Many features of these interactive toys are problematic. For example, children can be confused as to whether the toys are really “alive” and indeed their “friends”, triggering important concerns involving socialization. Here we outline some of the questions as for the interactive toys and present an analysis of the toys’ qualities. Also we will describe specific methods that educators and parents can use to mitigate the toys’ deficiencies and help children interact with them in ways that stimulate their imaginations and development. Kids can gain some important insights from these toys if the toys are carefully chosen for children’s developmental levels, and if children get specific guidance from educators and parents.
Taking into consideration the great importance of play in kids’ lives, it can be risky to give them newly developed interactive toys if their potential effects have not been investigated. Teachers and parents often come through conflicting responsibilities. Many find that extremely important to prepare children for a world in which computer skills are almost crucial. At the same time, they are also responsible for ensuring that the toys given children suit best for their developmental stages. Interactive toys can present adults with formidable challenges.
Let’s take “Amazing Ally” by Playmates Toys as an example. Ally is a “computer chip, animatronic `best friend’ doll that can order a pizza on her cell phone, knows when her hair is being brushed and what kind of outfit she’s wearing, and can remember details about her owner”; she “sings songs and tells jokes”. There is no need for kids to use their imaginations to create stories about Ally. The doll speaks for itself and involves children in daily routine established by its developers.
No matter if teachers and parents want children to be exposed to such electronic “friends,” kids will see the toys in advertisements, in classrooms and at their playmates’ houses. And it is a good idea to provide adult a good piece of advice concerning how best to interact with such toys.
Some Drawbacks of Interactive Toys
When choosing an interactive toy, it is important to undersatnd what value the toy can offer to children. Playing with such toys, children may learn about friendship and conversational etiquette. At the same time they are learning that it is appropriate to spend much time and effort into building a relationship with a machine, which is troublesome. Teachers and parents should see the values that these toys reflect and buy their toy with these values in mind. They also should discuss the values with children. Interactive toys have some aspects that can confuse or mislead kids if the toys do not quite fit the child’s developmental level. Some of these aspects include:
1. Poor feedback to children: Although a number of interactive toys have the ability to engage children in forms of conversation, they do not provide significant help if the child does not provide the “correct” response. A child who provides an inappropriate response is left without any recourse. While older children will most likely understand that the toy does not have the full capabilities of a well-designed educational software package, younger children may require the direct intervention of an adult.
2. Negative effects upon children’s imagination: In the course of operating an interactive toy, kids have expecttation about what the toy can do in response to their input, and at least some of their play centers on exploring these expectations. With more free-form toys (such as blocks) children have larger roles in constructing their own imaginative narratives concerning how to play, which is especially important for children in their early development stages. Children can engage their imaginations more with non-interactive toys; the scenarios and rules that children design for playing with non-interactive toys.