Technological toys have not yet replaced traditional toys in the affections of preschool children, according to researchers at the Universities of Stirling and Strathclyde. In fact, in a study of the play activities of three and four year olds, the number of traditional toys in the home outnumbered technological toys by 3 to 1.
In spite of the fact that we live in a fast moving technological age which has extended the range of play possibilities for young children, the researchers found that traditional toys and activities like riding a bike or playing on the swings are still among the children’s favourites.
The results of the research will be presented to early years practitioners, policy makers and parents at a conference organised by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, on Thursday and Friday 12 and 13 May. The two day programme will examine whether technological toys and games have changed the way that young children play and whether this has an effect on their learning – as well as implications for their teaching.
Dr Christine Stephen of the School of Education at Stirling says: “One of the new features of this work is that we have actually gone out and collected data about children’s play experiences in their homes - and doing this in their homes has prompted us to develop new ways of researching children’s use of technology, rather than by surveys or retrospective accounts.
“There is a strong debate about the influence of technology in children’s learning. Those who follow the ‘toxic childhood’ view believe that children shouldn’t be using technology, while others believe that technology is the way forward for early years learning.
“Our studies suggest that technological play contributes to four kinds of learning: learning how to use the toy or technological equipment, extending knowledge and understanding of the world, developing persistence, independence and other positive dispositions and knowing how to take part in the social and leisure world of family and friends.
“We also found that the technologies that children are permitted to play with depend on the attitudes and expectations of their parents. Children’s preferences make a difference too. Some are keen to play with technologies and like the kind of activities they offer but others prefer traditional toys and choose these even if there are others at home who are keen on using technologies.”
This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.