PERSPECTIVES: A Conversation with Claire Green and Wendy Smolen,
Co-Founders of Sandbox Summit
April 9, 2012 | In 2008, Claire Green and Wendy
Smolen launched Sandbox Summit – a series of conferences designed
to address how technology affects the ways kids play, learn and connect.
This year’s conference, Going Mobile,
Going Global: Tracking the Anywhere/Everywhere State of Play, will
take place April 17-18, 2012 at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) (registration for the Summit is now open.)
Toy News Tuesday editors spoke with Claire and Wendy to gain
some insight into how the mobile revolution has impacted the
“tools” and “rules” of play.
TNT: What was the impetus behind launching Sandbox Summit in
’08? How did each of you become interested in and involved with
research that studies the way 21st century children learn and
CG & WS: Both of us have been playing with
kids’ toys for a long time, Claire as president of Parents’
Choice Foundation, and Wendy as a senior editor at Parents and
Nick Jr. magazines. After Toy Fair in ’07, we were
downloading over (several) glasses of wine and we realized that the
majority of toys we had seen that year had chips in them. We like to say
that was the moment we knew play had crossed the Digital Rubicon.
Because play is the way kids learn, we created Sandbox Summit to explore
how technology is affecting what they learn and how they play in the new
TNT: How has the conference evolved over the years to address
the fast-paced advancements that have been made in the world of
CG & WS: Every year we address a new theme. When
we first started out, we focused on traditional toys with technology
added. Then suddenly, tools such as computers, telephones and television
became toys. Next “transmedia” became the buzzword and we
looked at expanded platforms. This year, we see mobile as a huge area of
growth. Luckily we have a great network of experts at MIT as well
as on our advisory board who keep us tied in to cutting edge
TNT: What can this year’s participants expect to take
away from the conference?
CG & WS: A sense that playful learning is
TNT: What can toy companies learn from the online/mobile
behavior of kids, tweens and teens? How will this be addressed at
Sandbox Summit ’12?
CG & WS: Without giving away the store, we can
promise that we have three research studies that will be eye-opening for
everyone involved in kids’ toys and media. Nickelodeon has
fascinating data on kids and mobile; The Intelligence Group will discuss
trends among Gens Y and Z, and Rick Richter from Ruckus Media will talk
about research they’ve conducted on parents’ attitudes
regarding screen time. Add to that, inspiring presentations and hands-on
workshops by major industry leaders. It’s two full days of
play…and that’s how kids (of any age) learn!
TNT: How have all of the changes in technology over the past
50 years (from radio and television to video games and the Internet)
impacted play? How do you see current technologies, like mobile apps,
contributing to the evolution of play?
CG & WS: Kids will always play. They’ll
take what’s at hand---be it a stick, a stone, a ball, or an iPad.
Play is how they make sense of the world. As more technology infuses
their playthings and play spaces, they’ll explore it. It’s
up to us, the grown-ups, to make sure that they get a balance of
traditional and technological toys to nurture creativity, curiosity, and