With the festive season and summer school holidays ahead, parents are starting to think about keeping their children busy and how best to impress when it comes to gifts. Born into a tech-boom like no other, parental anxieties remain high about how much of today’s children’s time is spent absorbed by screens. Instantly engrossing apps on tablets and mobile phones are increasingly used to distract and pacify younger children when they are acting up, to lull them to sleep or to ‘babysit’ them when parents need their me-time.

According to Leanne Gordon-Myers CEO of toy distributor, Pollywiggles (South African distributors of Keycraft Global), this only serves to highlight that facilitating play with real-world toys, especially those that provide social and emotional learning (SEL) through play, has become even more important.

“It is so much more rewarding for a child to ‘touch and feel’ and have an interactive 4D experience,” she points out. “You can’t really ‘play’ with a device in the true sense. You can’t interact with a ‘game’ as you would with a toy.  The visceral experience is removed when everything is available at a swipe.  Many of the games are repetitive,  dulling the imagination as the child learns to follow the steps and get the same results. Digital games generally involve rules and limit testing out various scenarios, while toys offer fantasy and free play.”

Screen time that leads to obsessiveness, reduced physical activity, moodiness, impulsiveness and the demand for instant gratification are some of the issues that parents worry about, and this is probably one of the reasons why SEL toys are on the rise.   Social and emotional learning through play helps children develop patience  which can counteract impulsivity and ‘playing up.’

“Children need to know that they can’t get everything they want instantaneously. It will make them better equipped to deal with the daily curve balls that life throws them. It also teaches them that sometimes if you wait, things can actually get better,” says Gordon-Myers.

Free play also teaches compassion, as well as fosters relationship and communication skills.  SEL toys ignite imagination and creative thinking and gives the child the opportunity to be in charge of how they process the world around them through play.

“A good example of this is the popular Nurchums hatching egg range,” says Leanne. “The child gets to immerse the egg in water and nurture it for days before cracks start to appear in the eggshell and they start to get the first glimpses of their special toy inside.  They have the real-world experience of being patient, the thrill of anticipation and their compassion grows. There’s no limit on their imagination, and they have a hands-on experience of being surprised and delighted as they help a dinosaur or fairy, unicorn or mermaid hatch into their world.”

Parents looking for ways to reduce children’s screen time over the summer holidays may well be considering the latest toys ranges more carefully than they have ever done before.

Nurchums, manufactured by Keycraft Global and distributed locally by wholesaler, Pollywiggles, are already proven winners in international markets.  The attractive, coloured eggs containing  themed toys are submerged in water, and after a few days, cracks start to appear in the egg-shells.  There’s great excitement as the cracks start to widen and your child gets a glimpse of the toy they are helping to hatch.  Once free of the egg, returning the toy to fresh water will enable it to grow to its full size, which can take up to 10 days.  Out of water, the toy will return to its original size, and it can be put back in water to grow over and over again.

Three Nurchums product lines are available now in South Africa.  The orange, green and purple Dinosaur Hatching Eggs respectively, stimulate learning about the popular T-Rex, Triceratops and Stegosaurus as the dinosaur’s hatch.

The Nurchums Fantasy Hatching Egg, which introduces your child to the element of surprise, is currently the top-selling toy for Keycraft Globally.  Imagination is ignited by the glittering pink and purple eggs because you never know what you might get – it could be a mythical unicorn or an enchanting fairy.  Children ardently check their water-submerged eggs hoping to peep through the cracks and discover what’s growing.   The Nurchums Fantasy theme successfully aligns to the perennial popularity of unicorns, which is at a peak at this time.

Netflix’s August release of the live action The Little Mermaid film is sure to fuel demand for Nurchum’s latest Mermaid Hatching Eggs.  In blue and purple, these eggs hatch charming mermaid toys at the height of a significant, worldwide mermaid trend.

“There’s a double bonus that Nurchums offers parents,” says Leanne Gordon-Myers, CEO of Pollywiggles, “The toys are not just perfectly on trend and a top-seller internationally but help to foster child development in the real world. It’s an opportunity to take time-out from the screen and instant gratification and get hands-on in real time.  Every step of the way,  children can share in the journey with their new toys as these eggs vividly hatch and grow.”

Nurchums are available at Plasticland, Toy Kingdom, and other independent toy shops.  They retail at R 89.99 and can also be purchased online at www.takealot.com  and www.loot.co.za.

For more information visit www.pollywiggles.co.za and www.keycraftglobal.com