New Tech Toys Encourage Imaginative Play

By Tracey Dowdy

Saying toys have changed since we were kids would make even Captain Obvious himself roll his eyes. Heck, toys have changed significantly from when my kids were kids. The big news isn’t that toys are changing, but how they’re changing.

I tried to limit how much time my kids spent in front of a screen when they were young and did my best to encourage imaginative play. We read every day, built a lot of blanket forts, colored, painted and drew for hours. That’s not to say we didn’t watch movies. I could hold my own in a “Wizard of Oz” or “Lion King” quote-off just fine thank you. I simply preferred to play with them the way I played when I was a kid, when the wheel had just been invented and the latest technology meant my Casio digital watch.  As a result, my girls were never big into gaming or tech until cell phones came along. Now, their phones can do what it used to take a calendar, a camera, a phone, a typewriter, a personal assistant and the U.S. Postal Service to do. Tech has seamlessly merged with our lives from the cradle to the grave.

Toy and game developers, who I assume are all exactly like Tom Hanks character in “Big”, have been incorporating imaginative play into their products for years. But they’ve taken it a step further and have become much more intentional by encouraging consumers to submit ideas for games and toys that can then be downloaded or purchased worldwide. In fact, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) recently declared “Custom Built” as one of the top toy trends of 2014.

“Encouraging kid-generated content allows children to tap into their creativity and play exactly how they want to play, whether they are having fun with arts and crafts, designing their own dolls or plush, or building new virtual worlds,” said TIA toy trend specialist Adrienne Appell. “This is an important, growing trend that will continue to have a tremendous impact on the future of toys and gaming.”

Disney, quick to spot a trend, launched “Disney Infinity”, a game where players can take their favorite Disney or Marvel characters and place them in the game. Since its inception last year, the “Toy Box” feature where players can custom design game worlds or download worlds created by others has over 12 million customized toy boxes.

“I believe this generation of players, whether they’re on the digital screen or playing inside their own living room, expects a level of customization in order to feel ownership and pride over what they have,” says Disney Infinity Executive Producer John Vignocchi.

LEGO recently introduced LEGO Fusion, where kids are encouraged to build and create with physical LEGO bricks then scan and import pictures of their creations into the game. Players can challenge their friends to see whose buildings, towers or vehicles are the strongest, the tallest or the fastest. Fans can also submit original ideas through LEGO Ideas and, if the suggestion gets 10,000 supporters, LEGO will consider adding it to their line. They also regularly run contests for their MINDSTORMS platform and fans can submit ideas for the customizable/programmable robots.

User-generated modifications or “mods” are a big part of the video game industry. Nineteen year old Alexander J. Velicky spent 2,000 hours over the span of a year creating the Falskaar mod for Skyrim. It was basically a job application, and though he wasn’t hired by Bethesda, he was hired by Bungie, creators of Halo.

British toy company Arklu hosts social media contests to create outfits for fans of their “Lottie” doll. In May, fans were asked to create a superhero costume for Lottie, so fans from around the world submitted designs. Lilly, a six-year-old girl from Ohio won and now her original artwork, name, age, and hometown will be incorporated into the package design when the costume is introduced in stores.

Similarly, the “My Own Monsters” line from North American Toy Company has creatures based on drawings by employees’ kids about what scares them. “MOrty the MOnkey” shoots at germs with bananas from his belly button and “Yucky” has “very big hands that can wipe off yucky kisses from big people.” Parents can submit their own child’s artwork and the creature will be handmade in North American Toy’s studio.

“Sophisticated content creation is no longer reserved for specialists,” said Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for LEGO Systems. “Children’s bedrooms have become creative publishing studios, so the expectation surrounding customization, personalization and ‘make-it-mine’ experiences is at an all-time high.”

As I parent, I see all this as the best of both worlds. Kids are still dreaming and building, but sometimes the castle they’re defending or dragon they’re slaying is in the digital world and not the backyard. Either way, that’s a lot of imaginative play, a lot of creativity and a lot of fun!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.

Comments:

  1. Usually I do not read article on blogs, but I would like to say
    that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and
    do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very nice post.

  2. I read this post completely about the difference of hottest and preceding technologies, it’s amazing article.

  3. Every weekend i used to pay a quick visit this site, because i want enjoyment,
    as this this web page conations really pleasant funny material too.

  4. It is the best time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy.
    I’ve read this post and if I could I want to suggest you some interesting things or advice.
    Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I want to read even more things about it!

  5. Terrific work! This is the type of information that are meant to be shared across the net.
    Shame on the seek engines for not positioning this publish upper!
    Come on over and talk over with my website . Thanks =)

  6. Excellent post. Keep writing such kind of information on your
    blog. Im really impressed by your site.
    Hello there, You have performed an excellent job. I will certainly digg
    it and individually recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited
    from this site.

  7. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author.I will be sure to
    bookmark your blog and will come back later in life. I want
    to encourage continue your great job, have a nice afternoon!

  8. An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I believe that you ought to write more on this issue, it might not be a taboo
    matter but typically people don’t discuss such subjects.

    To the next! Many thanks!!

  9. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so much, However I am
    encountering difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why
    I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else having the
    same RSS issues? Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond?
    Thanx!!

  10. If you desire to grow your experience simply keep visiting this website and be updated with the hottest
    news update posted here.

  11. It’s perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it is
    time to be happy. I’ve read this submit and if I may just I want
    to counsel you some fascinating issues or advice.
    Maybe you can write next articles regarding this article.
    I desire to read even more things approximately it!

  12. Thanks for any other excellent article. Where else could anyone
    get that type of info in such a perfect method of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the
    look for such info.

  13. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this fantastic blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.

    I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group.

    Talk soon!

  14. It’s going to be end of mine day, however
    before end I am reading this wonderful article to improve my knowledge.

  15. excellent put up, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector
    don’t understand this. You should continue your writing.
    I’m confident, you have a huge readers’ base already!

  16. Hmm it seem like your website ate my firfst comment (it was extremely
    long) sso I guess I’ll just sum it up wjat I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to
    everything. Do you ave any helpful hints for first-time
    blog writers? I’d certaainly appreciate it.

    My web page … Chaturbate69

  17. Awesome! Its truly amazing post, I have got much cleaar idea regarding
    from this piece of writing.

    Here is my homepage :: Cam4

  18. Hey There. I fond your weblog the usage of msn. That iss an extremely smartly written article.

    I will make sure to bookmark iit and comme back to learn extra of your helpfjl info.
    Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.

    Here is my blog :: Cam4

  19. Attractive component to content. I just stumbled upon your
    web site and in accession capitql to say that I geet in faxt enjoyed account you blog posts.
    Anny way I will be subscribing in your teen nude guide feeds and even I success you accedss consistently quickly.

  20. Wonderful gooss from you, man. I have understabd your suff previous to
    and you’re just extremely excellent. I really like what you have
    acquired here, really like what you are saying and
    the wway in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you
    still take care of to keep it smart. I can’t wait to read much more from you.
    This is actually a great site.

    Feel free to visit my web blog Chaturbate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *