Service of Snack Toys for Time-Pressed Kids: Scrabble, Monopoly, Rubik’s Cube

August 15th, 2013

Categories: Games, Patience, Toys

I clearly remember game nights with prizes–small favors–that my sister produced for the family. I don’t recall whether we played Parcheesi, canasta or gin rummy, but I loved the time together.

I thought of those events while reading Ann Zimmerman’s article, “Toys for Tight Schedules Why Toy Makers Are Creating Shorter-Playing Toys—and One Monopoly Version Even Jettisoned the Jail,” in The Wall Street Journal. She says that the industry calls the category “snack toys.”

One manufacturer noted that essential information parents want to see on packaging, along with the age and number of players, is how long it takes to play the game.

Some examples of snack toys that join quick versions of Uno, Yahtzee, Boggle and Rubik’s Cubes include Scrabble Flash which takes 2+ minutes to play and Monopoly Empire. The idea with Monopoly Empire is to accumulate big brands and it takes 30 minutes. Zimmerman wrote: “There is no longer a ‘jail’ for players to languish in while waiting for a lucky roll.” She quoted Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president of marketing at Hasbro that produces the game:  “Parents and children tell us they want a quick in-and-out, frictionless gaming experience.”

Zimmerman reported: “A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that children between the ages of 8 and 18 are filling their free time with more screen-based media consumption, from digital games to TV and video viewing. Between 2004 and 2009, young people increased the amount of media they consumed by more than one hour and a half to almost 7½ a day. The number does not include multi-tasking—children simultaneously watching TV and playing digital games on their smartphone, for example.”

About the traditional games played with magnets she quoted a parent who claimed they built motor skills. But Sandy Schefkind asserted the same about games on tablets. Schefkind, the pediatric coordinator for the American Occupational Therapy Association added that “traditional toys add ‘the social-interactive and social-exchange piece that the tablet doesn’t give.'”

I got lost in the next paragraph because the quote seemed to contradict the statistic that Zimmerman attributed to Matel surveys. They “show that more than 60% of parents would like their children to spend more time with traditional toys. ‘There is tension there,’ says Michael Shore, vice president of global consumer insights at the company, ‘because young parents are spending more of their time on social media, modeling that behavior.'”

That’s why I suspect parents are the primary impetus for the portable, fast versions of games that Zimmerman says are also easier to clean up. [What’s to clean up with a game on a tablet?] Time for play of any kind is not top-of-mind for a child who devotes from 1.5 to 7.5 hours a day on “screen-based media consumption.”

Zimmerman admitted “as toy makers strive to make games shorter, the opportunity to develop strategic thinking skills may be lost.”

Can’t blame manufacturers for selling what people want to buy but do you think parents realize that snack toys lose benefits of traditional games such as learning to play face-to-face with others and honing strategic thinking? What about discovering patience? How many challenges are solved at work in from two to 30 minutes? Whom can we depend on in future to perfect the stick-to-it-disposition required to perform cancer research, write thoughtful plays, movie scripts and books to reach a reliable diagnosis when symptoms and tests are inconclusive, to repair or create a mosaic, or to accomplish what you do for a living?

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8 Responses to “Service of Snack Toys for Time-Pressed Kids: Scrabble, Monopoly, Rubik’s Cube”

  1. Hester Craddock Said:

    My God! What an Orwellian world we are increasingly living in!

    As you have already pointed out the many pit falls of “quick” games, I won’t belabor the obvious, but I would be interested in any data you may have come across, which addresses how many people (and their families) have reduced the time they spend looking ay electronic screens every day. I suspect the number might both be indicative and larger than one might expect.

    As s cousin of mine replied when he was asked by an acquaintance to join his circle of “buddies” on a social network, “I’ve clicked ‘yes’ because I do not wish to offend, but you should know that I make a point of not reading social network emails, because I prefer to use my time reading, writing and thinking.”

    I predict that the next generation of rulers on this planet will be made up of those kids who today are learning how to play long games, not short ones. Regrettably, also, the next batch will be far more authoritarian than the current lot because we “screen watchers” will be far more receptive to doing their bidding without asking why we are doing it.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    Nothing is ever 100% and that goes for pastime activities for children. While the social aspect may suffer, technology may coax a child into self reliance and resistance to peer pressure. School serves as a deterrent to isolation, and usually a choice of sports and club activities await, thus providing a healthy balance.

    My wish for todays parents is that they ignore so called experts on child rearing and start enjoying their children. Keep the pundits out of the home which means acting as a family, and not as members of a study. Nothing beats spontaneity, and that means pushing the pollsters, scare mongers with their unwelcome and often harmful advice out of the house and into the gutter where most belong.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Time-pressed parents of many of these children are rushing to respond to tweets and emails and Facebook comments while tossing fast food on the kitchen table for family members to pick at when they get home. Children don’t see their parents reading or conversing much. And as schools increasingly teach on line–one candidate for NYC Mayor is suggesting that every child be given an iPad–there will be less face-to-face conversation and interaction.

    Lots of what needs to be done is done at warp speed…but not everything. And as I wrote, those things that encourage patience are crucial.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The problem with technology is that it isolates people. Children who haven’t been exposed to interaction with others will no doubt have a hard time when they are forced to do so. I would be interested to see whether recruiters have noticed differences between the latest and past crops of grads. Obesity in children is related to them hanging out at home with their tech toys instead of playing outside.

    My sister walked me all over the city. We talked as she took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum or when we went shopping for Christmas gifts. She wasn’t buried in an iPhone. Further, she took time to teach me how to play canasta, how to do the Charleston. I wonder how much of this goes on anymore?

    I see countless adorable little ones in carriages isolated from the person who is pushing them around the city because the adult is chatting away on a phone, in a different world. Technology is great but it has its side effects.

  5. ASK Said:

    When I played Monopoly with my cousins, we played the same game for days. When it was time to eat or go to school, we’d just stop, make a note of whose turn it was, and continue play after school or dinner. The only time we’d stop is when one of us was so heavily into real estate that others were going broke.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Great memory. Wonder if any of you went into real estate as a result?

  7. ASK Said:

    One cousin bought a share in a Napa winery, and another developed the habit of buying a house, decorating, then flipping it…that is until the market went south…she’s been in the same house for several years now.

  8. David Reich Said:

    I think the idea of shorter games is more for parents than the kids themselves. If kids like a game or activity, they can stay with it for hours. And that’s true not only for video games, which can be truly addictive, but for board games and other “traditional” activities.

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