Play has always been recognised as the best way for children to revisit, rehearse and invent the future.

Through their play and the application of imagination, use of creativity and the sensitive interaction with adults and their peers, children learn self-regulation and cultivate executive function, practising the social and emotional aspects necessary for the development of interpersonal relationships and so much more. For this to have a lasting impact, children need to play with the resources that both represent and ‘fit’ the context in which they live and to prepare them for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’; a world where AI and AR, the internet of ‘things’ and the Sci-F worthy bioengineering are a reality, already transforming our society and culture, impacting and reimagining the world as we know it and reworking the concept of what it means to be human.

We digital migrants (mainly those of us who are ‘pre-millenial’) educators and parents raise concerns about the dilemma of preparing children for an unknown world and yet remain wary of ‘too much tech too young’,thinking about artificial intelligence as the technology, rather than thinking of it as intelligence. The digital natives (children in the early years and onwards) however, seem born with hyper-extendable thumbs and an innate ability to fearlessly embrace each technological innovation and welcome the abundance of new functionality, abundant connectivity and the gadgets that enable it. Does this cultural context, where AI and its opposite if not quite equal, AR, provide the basis of many 21stCentury play activities and daily experiences mean that children may struggle to develop essential social skills, such as compassion, empathy, care and concern for others? Are we missing something? Perhaps Arthur, Archie and ‘Bobby’ (in this fascinating extract from the Channel 4 programme, ‘The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds’) may make us think otherwise…

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