The Conversation: Looking for a high-tech gift for a young child? Think playgrounds, not playpens

In this article, Professor Marina Bers discusses early learning STEM education. The articles reads in part:

“It’s confusing to browse all the tech toys on the market, looking for one that will support a child’s budding STEM knowledge. I coined the metaphor of “playgrounds versus playpens” as a way to understand the best developmentally appropriate experiences with technology. As new gadgets, robots, apps and games are commercially released, going back to this metaphor can guide you beyond the bells and whistles to focus on how a tech toy may support learning and development.

Quality playgrounds let kids explore and stretch toward new skills. In my latest book, “Coding as a Playground,” I invite readers to recall the playground of their childhood. Children were able to run, to explore, to invent new games, to engage in pretend play; to communicate, collaborate and problem-solve with others; and to make their own choices.

Now, think of a playpen. These safe, confined spaces are in stark contrast with playgrounds. The playpen conveys a lack of freedom to experiment, lack of autonomy for exploration, lack of creative opportunities and lack of risks. It’s a place where a child can be stowed to pass the time.”

Read on for the full article.