Richard Heayes looks at why it remains vital for toys and games to encourage children to embrace art, alongside the sciences, to help fuel their creative thinking.


With a lot of discussion recently on STEM I’d like to introduce you to STEAM. That ‘A’ is very important – it stands for Arts, an area the UK has always been a world leader in.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths are critical subjects to grow our economy and support our future but without artistic insight and imagination, our kids won’t be fully prepared to take advantage of the ever-changing technology landscape that will only continue to evolve over the next 50 years.

It is becoming increasingly important to understand that to succeed in the 21st century, it is not just what you know, but what you can imagine that sets you apart.

Applied sciences are great but the big thinking often comes from people who can imagine something new. Encouraging young children to take up creative pursuits (eg: music, design and art) has been proven to enhance exam scores as it helps them to combine ideas in a much more dynamic and imaginative way. There is of course only limited time in school to focus on a set of core subjects, and so it often means promoting more creative subjects outside of formal schooling.

For the toy business, this is our backyard.

The continued success of LEGO and the growth of Play-Doh shows that parents support creative values and want their kids to express them. It is also beneficial for children who are all under enormous pressure to be A-Grade students.

Making and creating gives kids (and adults) a real sense of purpose and has also been shown to promote emotional well-being. The best toys encourage kids to be imaginative, to build stories, role-play and learn and, although there are many STEM focused toys around, we shouldn’t forget the many wonderful products we have that encourage creative thinking.

As we move away from gender toy aisles, new super categories will replace them. I’d love to see a creative thinking zone, products to really super-charge kids’ creative potential. This could be a really exciting space, with a mix of products – not just the usual arts and crafts.

There are many games that are designed to promote creative thinking that could live in this space. Games like Dixit, Rory’s Story Cubes and Rapidough to name just a few as well as products like Roominate and future 3D printing gadgets that would also live happily here. 

So let’s promote the benefits of play as a special time outside of formal schooling and create products to power kids’ creativity in order to keep the UK as one of the world’s leading creative countries.

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