Parents, Teachers and TOYS Influencing Children’s Choices for a Career?
I’m a parent — just like YOU! And just like you, parenting taught me that children are the greatest teachers. In my quest to use technology to bring literature to “kids of today,” with a whole new approach — something astonishing happened along the way.
It was a modern-day moment straight out of the old movie Big, where the twelve-year-old Josh (transformed into a thirty-year-old man) runs into the company’s owner with the enthusiasm and fervor of a child and wows him with fresh insight about the tired toys they are struggling to sell.
Before our launch of the new books series, Operation YOU®, Quantum Storey began to conduct a series of focus groups to help evaluate the usability of the interface and representative content which combines the tradition of illustrated printed books with the dynamic, self-directed action of virtual reality. And because I know that children can be the most significant teachers, I was ready to learn.
On our first session, I put our Operation YOU® books on one table and a variety of Virtual Reality goggles on the other and invited girls and boys 7–11 years, inside. The girls were interested in the VR goggles but didn’t approach the table with the confidence, aggression, and ownership as the boys. Instead, the girls took ownership of the books. It didn’t take long before we had two split groups; boys on one side and girls on the other.
Guess what happened when the girls realized that they had to use the Virtual Reality goggles to get the full experience of the book and the boys realized that they had to grab a book to see something through the goggle. They began to share– not in a “me first, you second” sort of way, but in a united and cohesive group of young people working toward a common goal, kind of way.
Just like the familiarity principle of attraction, what I learned is that “kids of today” go directly toward what toys are most familiar to them, not what’s most intriguing. The irony is that the three biggest companies in the traditional toy industry are trying to hit the reset button to undo the very problem that they helped create by developing products that match kid’s play patterns. That’s nonsensical and only perpetuates the problem.
Subliminally the toys they play with from a very young age still send a message that girls are better readers than boys and that boys are better at math, science, and tech. Just watch this quick mind-blowing YouthSpark video. The ending will surprise you.
We’ve come a long way since the movie Big came out, which is why Startups are much farther down the road and have a fresher approach than the toy giants of yesterday. Instead of being bogged down with gender stereotypes, today’s smart startups focus on the kids and not on attracting a product to either girls OR boys and is free of the bureaucracy that is likely to stifle innovation.
So, in the something astonishing that happened along the way –I got to witness the awe and wonderment that happens to children when given both the power and the permission to play with products that defy stereotypes.
As we begin 2018, I hope to change the odds starting with the products we give our children to play with and the message it sends. After all, any of our children are capable of cracking the code, finding the cure and solving the problem and we double the potential when we encourage ALL of them to try.
Happy New Year!