The Toyologist: Loving low-tech

This week Peter Jenkinson wonders whether kids are over-indulging in digital.
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My love affair with digital began back in the dot com boom (and bust) of the late nineties.

Back then, standard internet was my only mistress. Now I’m polygamous and my has to share me with my smartphone and apps, social media, video games and many others.

But oh, my multiple digital sweethearts. I have a confession to make: I cheated on you last weekend.

Who is she? Well, she is quite old, but has lost none of her appeal. In fact, I actually think she is going to become a pin-up this year – It’s Ms. Low Tech, and what great shape she’s in.

(Thanks for suffering that bout of clichés, they’re all over now.)

This fascination with more basic pursuits occurred during the annual pilgrimage to my hometown, Blackpool.

Although I have to be constantly ‘connected’ to make a living, I decided to spend the Easter long weekend offline.

I think I forced it upon myself because I had some romantic notion of seeing my kids, nieces and nephews enjoy a weekend similar to the ones I remembered. By that I mean minus Nintendo and iPhone and big on bucket and spade action.

The small people love Strictly on the gogglebox, so our first stop was the Tower Ballroom, where none of them were in awe of the amazing Victorian architecture or the Wurlitzer appearing from inside the stage - however they did engage with a bunch of other kids in game of hide and seek as I sat, entertained by their wholesome, simple japery.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t turned into a luddite overnight. I do want my kids to embrace digital, but I’d like to see young ‘uns be put on a balanced play diet because the digital over-indulgence of some small people is spiralling out of control.

Are the parents to blame? I’m in a privileged position parenting wise, I can combine the school run with my work schedule, even if it does mean some very late nights and extra early mornings. But when I can’t entertain them at home, I do call upon the latest digital baby sitter - it’s an easy fix.

The next day we visited Zippo’s Ccircus, the ringmaster, Norman Barrett, the same chap who presided over proceedings when I was a kid. He doesn’t seem to have changed a bit but the circus has altered dramatically.

With no wild animals allowed, the clowns, jugglers, trapeze artists and strongmen really have to pull their weight. And my children, aged two and nine, sat absolutely mesmerized.

Back at home, later that evening, the youngest – probably for the first time in two years – didn’t ask to play Pixie Hollow on her computer, Mario on the DS or Skylanders on the Wii the minute she got through the door.

Instead she dug out some old tennis balls and attempted to juggle. She also declared she wants lessons.

It was a fitting end to a few days free of tech-toys and good old fashioned parenting (playing) felt good for me too.

I just hope she doesn’t want to run off and join the circus anytime soon. There’s way too much play to be rediscovered.

Peter Jenkinson is the CEO and founder of


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