Parents: Forget buying your kid the latest electric gadget, because they’d actually prefer to tinker!
That’s the word from a growing number of experts who say today’s kids prefer playing with things that offer an “unstructured experience,” with no directions to follow. For example: New statistics show that sales of “hands-on building toys” – like LEGOs – are up 23% this year, while sales of all other toys are down. And many parents say they’re skipping the toy store altogether, because they’re giving kids boxes of old junk to play with – including doorknobs, alarm clocks and telephones.
What’s the attraction to tinkering?
Dale Dougherty is the founder of MAKE magazine, which offers do-it-yourself projects for people with an interest in electronics, metalworking, and woodworking. He says humans have a fundamental interest in building things, because there’s a sense of confidence and resourcefulness that comes from doing things with your hands. Plus, many parents are encouraging tinkering as a way of getting their kids away from videogames, cell phones, and computers.
And get this: Psychologists say many kids view tinkering as a form of rebellion, because any kid can play a video game – but how many can build their own robot?
That explains why a lot of toy companies say they’re focusing on developing more open-ended toys for kids to tinker with, and experts say that’s a good thing, because research shows that hands-on play helps boys and girls develop spatial abilities, which will come in handy later in school, when they’re studying geometry and engineering.