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Playground social network on hold

How will kids learn about new toys and games without playgrounds – the first social networks?

How will kids learn about new toys and games without playgrounds

The first “playground social network” moment I recall occurred in my third-grade year. A brand-new show called Happy Days had aired the night before (according to Google, it was Tuesday, January 15th, 1974). Everybody was talking about it. Kids were assuming the roles of Fonzie, Ritchie, Ralph, Potsie and the other characters. (The “cool kid” decided I would be Potsie, “the singing nerd.” He, of course, was the Fonz.) Some of my classmates hadn’t yet seen it, and I felt sorry for them. 

That summer, a girl at a playground repeatedly sang the international hit “The Streak,” which I’d not heard. I made sure to listen to the radio even more, so I could catch this globally popular novelty song about a man running around naked and causing a stir.

READ MORE: Hudson Valley's Best Playgrounds

The first time I saw a Pet Rock? A Rubik’s cube? On the playground. I can’t imagine learning of these things anywhere else. (I don’t remember any TV commercials for them.)

Despite dizzying advances in tech, the playground is still the “social network” for kids, especially youngsters who’ve not yet signed on to social media – six, seven, eight, and nine-year-olds. These kids’ ability to influence their peers is unparalleled and a little mysterious. Congregation places for children are both proving grounds and launch pads for all number of products. Brandishing of a beloved, new toy from a pocket, or word-of-mouth about a video game, are still far more effective promotional tools than multimillion-dollar campaigns.

Yet Covid-19 has closed down many of these gathering spots, leaving toy makers to worry: where kids will discover the next Silly Bandz, Fijit Spinners, or Beanie Babies?

Richard Gottlieb of Global Toy News and Gerrick Johnson Toy & Leisure Analyst for BMO Capital Markets are concerned, and not just about their bottom line. As modern-day versions of toymakers, they also deeply appreciate how these interactions foster friendships and enrich interactions between young people. Like all of us, they’re looking forward to an end to the pandemic for many reasons.

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