Written by Parcsen Loke

Think back to the time you played at a playground. There were many different colours and shapes to stimulate your mind. The wide open spaces compelled you to run around and explore. There were ropes to climb and tunnels to crawl through, to test and train your strength and agility. You were probably not alone at the playground. Playing with other kids helped you develop social skills such as communication, collaboration, and respect.

Compare all that with playing in a playpen. It is safe and sterile, but it lacks the freedom to experiment, of autonomy for exploration, of creative opportunities and of risks. It’s a place where a child can be stowed to pass the time.

While playgrounds are open-ended, playpens are limited. The playground promotes while the playpen hinders important aspects of human development, says Marina Umaschi Bers, professor of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University.

When it comes to shopping for tech toys for your child, one might be overwhelmed by all the options. Bright boxes, colorful apps and cute plastic robots will promise that learning outcomes will improve if your child plays with them. Should you believe them?

It’s not enough to read the label on the box. It’s important to understand the kind of experiences children will have when interacting with the technology. Search out technologies that engage children as producers, not consumers.

Over two decades of research, she has developed a theoretical framework called Positive Technological Development to guide parents, educators and researchers in distinguishing high-tech playgrounds from playpens.

This framework focuses on six positive behaviors that can be promoted through the use of technological playgrounds. These behaviors involve:

  • content creation
  • creativity
  • choices of conduct
  • communication
  • collaboration
  • community building

Use this framework to guide you the next time you go shopping for tech toys for your kids.

Smart shopping!

Read the full article by Prof Marnia here

Parcsen Loke is the Deputy Head of Programmes and Development at Centre for Fathering. He is married and has 3 children, ages 26, 24, and 13, with his wife Kelly.