Empowering kids to create

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We’re getting ready to release the first app in our second series: Digital Toys. While we’re bringing it into the world after releasing three apps in the Explorer’s LibraryDigital Toys was the first series we sketched out and I’m really excited about it.

The apps in Digital Toys are digital construction sets designed to help kids give form to their imaginations. The idea for them grew out of my frustration with many modern toys. I was part of the last analog generation; we grew up playing with boxes of blocks, drawers of costumes, and model rocket sets. The best toys — Tinkertoys, Lego, Play-Doh, Lincoln Logs — allowed us to build and rebuild almost endlessly.

With my kids, I noticed that these kinds of toys have become increasingly rare. Lego bricks are sold primarily as branded kits. Instead of a pile of blocks that could become anything, they are now essentially disassembled toys. Instead of starting with a child’s imagination of what could be, play is now fixed on a single endpoint, predetermined by Lego’s designers.

Play-Doh is often sold in branded kits with branded stamps. Cars and trains are no longer just cars, but characters from the movie Cars. Trains are now Thomas trains with particular personalities. When kids play with these branded toys, they often play into brand narratives rather than coming up with stories of their own.

At Tinybop, we rebel against this co-opting of imagination. My question when drafting Digital Toys was: how can we build toys that empower children to create their own personal narratives rather than diminish them?

Like the apps in our first series, The Explorer’s Library, the apps in Digital Toys are quiet, interactive playscapes, without beginnings or endings. But while the apps in The Explorer’s Library cover big subjects — as in The Human Body, Homes, and Plants — and help children form fundamental questions about themselves and the world around them, the apps in Digital Toys help kids create their own worlds.

We’ll be sharing more about Digital Toys soon but for now I can tell you that the mom of one of our play testers told me her daughter has been making drawings and telling stories inspired by the app all week. A very good sign indeed.

Download Digital Toys apps in the Tinybop Collection on the App Store — and save more than 20%.

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