Analog games – interactive, real-time, educational, creative

At various times this blog has featured articles on analog technology, and the importance of making time for play. My theme this week returns to these topics – and quite appropriately as the holiday season and gift-giving are upon us.

As part of the run-up to the holidays, last week my wife and I were at a local restaurant to meet with friends who were visiting from overseas. Among the party were four children, all aged under 10. Now, I’m sure many readers will be familiar with the situation – friends who haven’t seen each other for a while want to catch up and enjoy some good conversation over a relaxing dinner, and more often than not, the digital pacifier (smart phone, tablet, portable DVD player or games console) will be brought out to keep the children occupied.

Well, I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised that our four younger diners were fully engaged in each other’s company for nearly four hours – and not a screen in sight. Instead, they happily played together with the following toys and games:

  • A board game of Ludo
  • Some LEGO mini-figures
  • A box of alphabet flash cards

They even managed to invent their own game using the flash cards.

I’m not saying that younger children shouldn’t be playing with apps or video games – but screen time has to be used constructively, not as a default setting. I’m also aware that many apps and games can be educational and interactive. But I don’t think we place enough value on enabling and encouraging children to play games in real-time, with real friends, using toys that they can easily understand and control.

On a related note, another friend recently bought his wife a record player, so they could rediscover their vinyl music collection. Their young daughter, on seeing and hearing the gramophone in action asked, “How does the sound come out of those round things?”

How often do children display the same curiosity about how mp3’s or YouTube work?

On that note, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a safe and peaceful festive season. In particular, I would like to thank all my regular readers who have each given me feedback on what they like about this blog, especially those who have been generous enough to either comment on or critique specific content.

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