There are some educators, parents, and bloggers who feel technology is harmful for our kids and they should only have access to open-ended toys. I, however, believe that our children need a realistic harmony of both technology and open-ended play.
Today’s economy is much different than it was 20 years ago and it will be drastically different 20 years from now. Technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives and it will continue to do so. In fact, 65% of our children will land jobs that have yet to be created (success performance resolutions).
While open-ended play is amazing and I’m a huge advocate for free play and kid-powered toys, I think we are doing a disservice to our children if we don’t teach them how to use technology. Technology will ultimately be apart of their life forever.
Technology as a Tool
I’m not advocating for screens to be used simply as a means of distraction, escapism, or as a “babysitter”. What I am advocating for is a healthy balance of technology as a tool. Technology is a great way to help them create, locate information, think critically about information, learn to do something new, solve a problem, and/or find their voice.
Don’t Forget The Play
I am a strong advocate for children to have time to be children and just play. There are so many benefits of children playing freely especially when that time occurs outside in nature. Children learn to create, use their imaginations, develop crucial skills like fine motor, problem solving, and collaboration skills just from unstructured, free play.
It’s worth mentioning that I’m not talking about adult-led play or play opportunities that have to meet certain objectives. Adults can invite children to join them in what I call explorations like Play Dough, painting, or other similar explorations. The key is keeping it child-led and allowing them to create their own play within the exploration. The main thing is keeping the play unstructured. This will help encourage kids to use their own imaginations.
When Technology and Play Come Together
When both play and technology come to together in harmony for a well-rounded balance, it can really boost children’s skills and passions. It gives them even more opportunities with different mediums to create, helps them develop problem solving skills, collaborate with other children both in person and from around the world which means even more access to children who are different from them, and boosts communication skills along with language/vocabulary. Children are also preparing themselves for a successful career. They are also learning how to be a contributing citizen.
When technology and open-ended play are in balance with one another, children benefit greatly. We as parents need to lead by example by finding a healthy balance between technology and play. We also may need to assist them to create a harmony in the beginning. This will keep from one out weighing the other. However, if I had to choose between the two of them, I would lean with more play.