I grew up in the 80s, and my toys were awesome! I had Star Wars and Masters of the Universe action figures, LEGO and Construx sets, and countless other toys.
I loved dinosaurs, robots, spaceships, and time travel. I still do. In fact, that’s a big reason I got into the toy business. But that’s a story for another day. Today, I want to address something a bit more serious.
While I am an action figure collector at heart – I’m also a parent – and that makes me a very unique member of the toy-making industry. You see, as a parent, there’s a current play trend that truly concerns me.
My 8-year-old daughter recently began using screens more and more, and I don’t mean to check the weather or text friends. She uses phones, tablets, pads, etc. AS TOYS. Not instead of toys, but AS toys. And it’s not simply the staring at a screen that’s the concern.
It’s the dopamine.
Now, dopamine is NOT always a bad thing. In fact, when it’s received in the right way in the right doses, it’s very good for you. Dopamine is the chemical released in the brain that makes us happy, and true play releases dopamine in a healthy way.
The feeling collectors get when they find that chase figure hanging on the pegs. That thrill kids feel when they successfully push a Pin Mates™ down a slide and it tumbles out just the right way.
These are excellent examples of good dopamine generated from healthy “play.”
But there’s a bad side, too.
You see, your body also releases dopamine when you smoke, drink, and gamble. And when you trigger dopamine through the ingestion of chemicals, it is not healthy happiness. It’s artificial, created by and dependent on the chemicals you ingest. This is why smoking, drinking, and gambling are restricted to adults.
The reason this is incredibly important when discussing toys and play is that the emotional hit one gets from a text message, a Facebook like, or even a mobile game alert is SCIENTIFICALLY CREATED* to drive the same hits as smoking and drinking. It would be one thing if this electronic dopamine release was being given only to adults, but it isn’t. It’s going to our kids.
There are age restrictions on cigarettes and alcohol, yet we freely give children screens and apps that release relatively similar addictive dopamine as chemicals. Giving screens to children is essentially giving them a dopamine-releasing toy.
This is bad… really bad.
And this could actually become the problem of an entire generation. Mindless zombie children who instead of imagination-fueled, play-generating good dopamine are staring at screens in isolation, pressing their fingers down for minute-by-minute dopamine hits. Sounds like quality healthy play, right? Right. Let me offer an alternative, and with that, a VERY bold theory.
THEORY: There are only TWO groups that actively use toys:
- Children 4-6
- Adult collectors
EVERYONE IN THE MIDDLE IS ADDICTED TO SCREENS.
Don’t believe me? Put your screen down. Don’t use it for a week. Fun, huh? Why would we as parents voluntarily pass this behavior to our kids? Screens are not toys. Should I hashtag it? #ScreensAreNotToys
This is why Entertainment Earth created Pin Mates™. Pin Mates™ are all about three things:
- No apps
- No electronics
- No assembly
Toys the way they were meant to be. No apps and no screens. Pin Mates™ are designed by parents. Wooden mini collectible characters that are meant to physically interact with vehicles and playsets. Tactile play. Real payoffs. True bells and real whistles!
Kids and collectors can and will get dopamine enjoyment from Pin Mates™ – but in the healthy way – from the happy surprise of finding that new wooden collectible at retail, or by shooting them down the right slide and into a vehicle. This is a healthy high, what one calls being “high on life” and enjoying life, not being dependent on chemicals or machines for dopamine hits.
We didn’t need apps to play growing up. Why do kids need them today? Sure, we can continue to give kids dopamine-releasing app-based product… or we can choose real toys with real play value that make toy lovers of all ages happy in a healthy way. Toys with 50 years of proven sales that fueled the imaginations of generations of children.
Play like you remember.
Read about the background and the countless hours of playtime vintage Pin Play™ toys created.