By Katrina Harpell

We live in a fast-paced, technology driven society.  We can shop online, tap into free WiFi and work from a Starbucks instead of an office.  We can watch a movie on our tablets, while streaming a show through our Apple TV, text our friends on our Smartphones, all at the same time as we’re on our laptops Googling ideas on what to make for dinner.  We can do things today that I never imagined would exist back when I was a kid.  Things I didn’t even know I needed.

Kids today have access to materials, information and people in ways that Boomers and GenXers never had.  And they are accessing everything through the internet.  Do kids go to libraries anymore?  Would they know how to mail a letter; how much a stamp costs?  They know how to type, but can they write with a pen?  Are there benefits to keeping some “old school” ways alive?

Some brands are saying “YES!”  Take Lego for example.  My first Lego set was a box full of shapes & sizes of blocks.  There were no instructions except open and starting creating.  You were only limited by your level of creativity, and how many pieces you had.  Over time, Lego tied in to iconic movies & characters that kids love like Star Wars, Ninjago, Chima & Minecraft.  The kits have a set number of pieces and instructions on how to create one specific thing.  And typically, once the kid has put their toy together, it is played with, and kids are creative with the stories they tell while playing – but the toy is never deconstructed.

Now, Lego is bringing back the standard box of shapes & sizes, and kids are getting to use their imaginations again and build whatever they want.  There are books you can buy that have hundreds of ideas to try, but the message of simplicity is there.  Build a truck, build a castle, build whatever inspires you – we hope you have fun.

An update on a classic is Tamagotchi; an electronic pet that you needed to care for, feeding, cleaning, etc.  While learning responsibility, kids would share how well their pet was doing, share ideas & tips on how to keep their pets happy and healthy.  It ran on batteries, had just a few buttons to control feeding, discipline and mini games to keep the pet happy.  Now, the latest version of Tamagotchi can link to an app, the mini games give you points to buy new outfits, toys or food.  You can link your pet to a friend’s pet and your pets form a friendship.

Some methods of teaching are timeless and the benefit of allowing children to develop their imagination and build tools to cope well into adulthood should never be underestimated.  Socializing with others, learning to be responsible in taking care of a pet, not setting limits on creativity – it worked for me, I turned out pretty well, I think.

So, let’s bring back that Easy Bake Oven, Tinkertoys, Little People play-sets.  Let’s give our kids Play-Doh, and colouring books and crayons, and that classic Fisher-Price telephone with the googly eyes.  Don’t be afraid to give a classic a new face, make it relevant for today’s youth, and remember you can teach and be fun at the same time.