Play isn’t just about fun and games—it’s a valuable way for children to refine their motor skills, learn about the world around them, and develop social relationships. 50 years ago, that might have meant hide and seek; 30 years ago maybe it was Jenga; today it’s probably any number of games on a PlayStation or iPad. Anecdotally speaking, play changes with the decades, but what Ikea wanted to do with its 2015 Play Report is quantify the social forces that are driving the shifts and understand how design in the domestic realm—the company’s domain—can help adults and children play more.
To better understand the state of play, Ikea surveyed nearly 30,000 parents and children from 12 countries. The goal was to establish if the perception and nature of play had changed much since the last survey in 2009; whether children are playing less or more and the nature of play; if parents are playing more or less with their children; how digital media impacts family life; and the concerns, behaviors, and benefits of family time.
Here are a few of the findings:
1. Parents want to spend quality time with their children, but find it difficult to carve out playtime. And they feel guilty about it.
“Parents agree on the importance of play,” says Cindy Anderson, the business area manager for Ikea who’s responsible for developing Ikea’s range of children’s products. “At the same time, they sometimes struggle with finding inspiration on how to play and they’re bored when playing traditional children’s games.”
With that challenge in mind—making kids’ games more engaging for all ages and removing barriers to play—Ikea developed the Lattjo collection of products, which launches in November. It includes costumes; Ikea-fied games like chess, dominoes, tug of war, and percussion instruments; and a “recipe book” of activity ideas.
2. Parents are anxious about safety, but are also concerned about being overprotective.
“At the global level, about 22% of kids are not allowed to play outdoors and that’s an increase [from the 2009 report],” Andersen says. “That shows how important it is to play indoors—it’s, how can we create an environment to define playfulness inside the home?”
This information paired with the findings that home life is important inspired Ikea to create items that could be used indoors.
3. Over half of the parents surveyed said that play can include the use of smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and computers.
This sparked a mobile app and 25 animated digital shorts produced in conjunction with DreamWorks. The films include stories that teach children how to navigate the world, like how an eagle faces his fear of heights.
“You can develop a product, but the whole idea is to make us to play more, and to create a more playful mindset,” Andersen says. “To accomplish that, storytelling is an important complement to engage people and inspire behavioral change.”
The Lattjo collection as a whole seeks to spark creativity no matter where it comes from. “We’re all born with a certain play preference that’s stronger than others,” Andersen says. “Some are storytellers, some are into physical play, some are builders, some just like to move. What I hope that there is something that everyone can enjoy.”