The Future of Play
So much for wind-up cars and plastic figurines – today’s kids live in an era where technology isn’t just increasingly being introduced at an early age, but quickly becoming second nature. No secrets here: It’s a high-tech world out there, and what better way to introduce your child to it than with some equally high-tech toy and gaming options? Luckily for those hoping to give their playroom a 21st century upgrade, dozens of new offerings of all kinds are offer kids the chance to plug in and get connected. You’ll find several of the most promising new developments below.
Tablet PCs for Children
Perhaps at the top of any kid’s list when it comes to high-tech fun are new tablet PCs. Several models are custom designed for use by children, and built not only to be more intuitive, but also to be more capable of surviving bumps, drops, and spills. Often more affordable than traditional alternatives, these units are suitable for travel, and suitable for children’s usage – even, in some cases, if they’re being used around parks, playgrounds, and other challenging environments. These increasingly powerful units don’t just run educational software programs either: Many also run video games, music, movies, multimedia books, and apps of every kind as well.
Handheld Gaming Devices
While a kid-friendly tablet certainly makes a promising option for younger children, you’ll sometimes find that the digital diversions they offer are more limited in scope and social or multiplayer options (especially for older kids) than the thumb-waggling distractions offered by a dedicated handheld gaming device. Whether capturing and trading pocket-sized monsters, racing go-karts through bizarre fantasy landscapes, or just managing a town inhabited by cute cartoon animals, there are many interactive experiences best appreciated – and in some cases that can only be appreciated – on a dedicated gaming device. Happily, these units not only offer advanced computing and graphical horsepower for players’ enjoyment – several are also readily customisable with parent controls, web filters, and similar tools for parents who want to ensure that kids have a safe and enjoyable gaming experience.
Once upon a time, radio-controlled toys were all the rage. Today, however, app-enabled gadgets and gizmos are all the rage – and the amount of high-tech toys they power continues to skyrocket on a yearly basis. Not only can you find cars, action figures, and dolls that can be controlled by or interface with your smartphone and tablet PC today, but various styles of robots as well. (Including those inspired by some of today’s most popular TV shows and films.) And each of these futuristic playthings are controlled or interacted with via a simple, downloadable program that you can download for your smartphone or tablet – many of which offer the option to access new features, missions, and more. Other high-tech toys, including some board games, are also increasingly becoming more forward-thinking as well, as manufacturers keep discovering new ways to integrate apps and mobile solutions into the gaming experience.
When it comes to keeping 21st century kids entertained, not every high-tech plaything needs to be a toy per se either. Fully-functional digital cameras for kids allow them to let their inner paparazzi out, and let children capture stunning images for sharing with friends and family. Of course, it may help to remember that as children get older, and reach junior school age, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to transition them to standard-issue digital cameras as well. Teaching kids to enjoy the magic of photography is a gift that keeps on giving, and a hobby that may well stay with them into their adult years as well.
As if the ‘90s never ended, the concept of virtual reality (VR) – wherein the hardware and software developers try and immerse us in simulated computer worlds – is back with a vengeance. While tech companies are sinking fortunes into making the dream a reality for computers and gaming consoles, toy companies are taking a more streamlined approach to capitalise on renewed interest in this trend. Numerous types of kid-friendly VR offerings are now abound, from interactive games to puzzles and interactive experiences that take advantage of display technologies both new and old. Needless to say, it’s increasingly becoming a brave new (virtual) world for kids of all ages going forward.