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Toys survive in high-tech era

By Heather Artushin • Dec 9, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Children are often found wrapped up in their devices, and topping many kids’ Christmas lists this year are electronics like the PlayStation 4.

Local experts agree that technology has changed the landscape of holiday shopping, but toys are not obsolete.

“One of the biggest trends we’ve seen is more of a transition to games,” said Dan Guzman, store manager at MACkite in Grand Haven. “So yes, there are a lot of games in technology — however, the interaction between people playing games is still something that’s unique to board games. You can’t get that as much on video games because you don’t have that interpersonal connection.”

Games like Cobra Paw, a speed recognition matching game; and Tapple, a timed category game, are especially popular this year, creating opportunities for families to connect and have fun together. 

Jaleen Rodgers, program director at Wee Friends Childcare and Learning Center in Grand Haven, said toys are not only valuable for interpersonal connection, but are also important for learning.

“They’re important in a lot of ways,” she said. “They help physical development. They help children learn problem solving — anything that you would learn as an older child you learn as a younger child from toys.”

Lynn Negen, the owner of MACkite, said there’s something else to be said for toys and games — they lead to social interaction. 

“That’s one of the reasons we sell so many games,” she said. “It brings people together.”

Related: 77 Best Toys This Christmas

Another trend Guzman has noticed is that toy manufacturers are incorporating technology into their more traditional toys, making them “modern” and appealing to today’s kids.

“We have started to see a trend where the toys and technology intermix,” he said. “One really cool toy we have like that is a coding device for a toy called Snap Circuits. They are a kit that teaches kids circuitry. Snapino is an add-on that allows you to code circuits so you can write different coding on a computer in order to change the sequencing of your circuits.”

Another valuable learning tool that can find a spot under the Christmas tree are books.

“Books are great Christmas gifts,” said Diane Steggerda, one of the owners of The Bookman in Grand Haven. “It’s the kind of close connection that you build with a book in your hands — turning the pages and helping them see what’s in a picture and learning certain words.”

From exploring picture books with your 3-year-old to discussing classic novels with your teenager, books are valuable tools for learning and connection for children of all ages.

Related: Best Books of 2017

Despite the popularity of technology with children, it’s important to remember to disconnect from devices in order to connect with each other, helping kids develop important skills and use their imaginations.

“Absolutely,” Guzman said. “I see all these tech trends, but some of the best toys are those that don’t require technology.”


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