Gadgets Are New Age Toys

A few years ago, buying a gift for a child was a simple task, one just had to scoop out a figurine from the numerous ones that flooded the market, from tiny GI Joe toys that could be adjusted in combat and standing mode, to the transformers toys that could transform into vehicles with a small tweak. With technology ruling our lives at least in many parts of urban India, toys have undergone a change.Prashant Patil, a grocery store owner says: "When I was growing up, these GI Joe and transformers figurines were the first exposure to the world of cable television. Even before these toons were aired, all the kids in the neighbourhood had heard about the transformers and GI Joe, thanks to the popular toy figures that used to be sold in the market. Most of these toys would be missing an arm or a leg, with even the head being held high with a rubber band. We never got tired of playing with these mutilated figurines."He adds, "I watched the GI movies and the transformers instalments only because I got nostalgic about my collection. It was the most valuable things in our lives then. The movies lacked the thrill and the action of cartoon series. My sons prefer the internet and games on the mobile. They are not interested in physical toys much."Gayatri Raja, the mother of a three-year-old says, "Toys have lost their meaning in this time and age. Children are more interested in electronic gadgets and playing games on laptops and tablets. The make of many of the new age toys is also suspect. The days when a new toy meant a new companion of sorts is over. Children graduate from playing with toys much quicker."For IT professionals Mithali and Manav Sharma, their four-year-olds playing routine is very different from their own childhood. "Our son does not use his toy collection much. Though he is occasionally thrilled to receive gifts he loses interest in them very quickly. His favourite pastime is playing temple run and candy crush. Though he cannot read, he knows the buttons."Mithali says, "I used to adore toy figures of GI Joe characters. We used to build defences, plan imaginary battle strategy. Those simple toys helped build our imagination and aided in ensuring that we had out-of-box ideas. It was better than swiping your tablet or smart phones for virtual games."Richa Dikshit runs an online toy store, the Yellow Giraffe. She says, "Contrary to public imagination, children are not playing many games on tablets and smartphones in urban India. The trend now is towards making custom made toys, basically toys that use elements of technology such as 3D printers are becoming very popular. Custom made toys is the future of toys worldwide."She adds, "In Germany, children below the age of five are not allowed to access technology since they feel that technology inhibits the ability to learn physical skills and develop language."Marketing professional Priyanka Dhingra agrees with Richa. "My children are not keen about run of the mill toys, but like toys that bring some degree of technological innovation. I am wary of them using tablets a lot. I allow them to play games such as Talking Tom, which is the virtual equivalent of taking care of a pet. There are many games that allow one to enhance their imagination and thinking process."Reeta Naik, a child psychologist concurs. "Parents must take care and ensure that the child's mental skills are developed before giving them devices. Language and good handwriting are important skills that must never be ignored. Toys are good, but using technology as a substitute must be discouraged."

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