Getting children ready for the (digital) future

Illustration credit:  bang bang design

Illustration credit: bang bang design

As parents or educators, we all are driven by the same question: How to prepare our children best for life and set their full potential free?

Our future world will be evermore digital. Quite naturally, the need to teach digital skills became a top priority in parenting, as well as in the private and public education sector.


The world 10 years from now

Whereas it does indeed matter to acquaint children with technologies and how to utilise them. Today's discussion focuses mostly on the user's and consumer's side of the skill set.

Toddler playing apps, the use of iPads and smartboards in schools, 10-finger typing instead of handwriting and early programming lessons found a way into the children's daily life. But it is doubtful whether this will be anyhow useful once the young adult finishes school.

Walk down your own memory lane: What was life like ten years ago? Back then the iPhone was not yet released. There was no mobile shopping, no Wifi- and GPS location-based services all around the globe and the fax machine was still a very important means of business communication. How were you prepared?

Credit: Vai Kai

Credit: Vai Kai

It seems quite useless to get your toddler in touch with social media feeds and smartphone games if already today’s 14-year-olds know facebook only from the name and did not even bother to sign up, because „grandma uses it“.

It is of course understandable that where it is part of your life you want to share digital experience with children. But it is not teaching. It is sharing, no more than that. Today‘s children will have to learn the mastery of completely different tools when they grow up.

Raising tomorrow’s inventors

This reasoning is backed by a recent report by Dell Technologies  estimating that 85% of future jobs have not yet been invented.

In ten to twenty years from now, today’s children will have to create the future tools and technologies. They will have to come up with ideas, plans, and engineering that can solve the challenges of the societies at that time. And for this they will need maker-skills. Not consumer-skills.

It is interesting that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two of the most famous and industry-changing technological leaders of our time, did not seem to think their inventions best to teach and raise children.

And Jack Ma, founder and chairman of the fast growing Alibaba Group goes even further and positively states his recommendation for educators in face of bitcoin, global e-commerce and AI.

We have to teach our kids to be very, very innovative, very creative,” Ma insists. “In this way, we can create jobs for our own kids.”

In his 2018 interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos he warns against knowledge-based teaching. Instead, when asked about the skill-set for future professionals, he lists only soft skills:


About 100 years ago a very different pioneer made a similiar statement in the face of changing times due to technological revolutions. Rudolf Steiner, famous lead-thinker of anthroposophy and founder of Waldorf education, puts it like this:

The most important thing during the first seven years is to nourish a child's sense-organs. […]

Hence during these years we must try to influence a child's senses, to draw them out so that they become active on their own account. That is why it is such a mistake to give a child one of those “beautiful” dolls; they hinder him from setting his own inner powers to work.

A normal child will reject the doll and be much happier with a piece of wood, or with anything which gives his imagination a chance to be active.

Rudolf Steiner, „The Upbringing of children“, 1922*


All these examples have one thing in common. It is the praise for the creative, un-forced yet focused, serene state of mind that enables to learn by experiment. In paedagogics it is known under the name of open ended play. It is the natural approach children take on learning and it does not need much equipment or guidance.


3 Key Rules to enable open ended play

So how to ensure your toddler and pre-school child has the optimal enviroment to freely and creatively play? We have found the three following rules to guide to the precious open ended play.


1. Setting the frame

Learning environments should promote kids’ imagination, and encourage them to explore all their senses, but not distract.“ (Justyna Zubrycka, Connected things designer, in: Beautiful Business)

A dull and restricting environment is same bad as too much interaction and overstimulation. Finding the happy medium might be difficult, but it is definitely the motto to live by.


2. Digital mastery is not acquired by digital exposure

The consumption of digital media is likely the biggest challenges in nowaday’s parenting. Since early age children grow up in a digitalized world. But it is wrong to think that early and maximal exposure will help them to be best prepared for this world we live in and help them master it.

Quite the opposite: consuming is radically different from creating. A child that cannot develop its own imagination is harmed since early age.

We need to apply technology with a lot of consideration for this sensitive age, but even digital literacy can be learned with very little or even no technology.“ (J.Z., ibid.)

As long as children cannot get inventive, digital media will not teach them anything.


3. The power of emotions

Photo credit:  Shai Levy

Photo credit: Shai Levy

Play is a positive activity. Yet, for the child it is not without efforts. In play the child is magically drawn to explore new paths. Naturally, children strive for the new. And as they have never done before, it cannot be easy. But: it still is fun!

The major aspect of what keeps children at play is the pleasure of feeding their curiosity, learning and experiencing new things.

So if you want to make sure that your child is his or her own master at playful learning, make sure it can still be fun!

Motor skills are important for every child. But exercise does not have to happen in a classical frontal group learning setting. Trying to avoid the next ballet lesson or football training does not mean that the child does not enjoy to get physical active now. Children have never needed external motivation to climb a tree or to reach the peak when on the swings. It is the child’s intrinsic motivation, that makes all the difference.


These three pieces of advice are are taken from the interview with Connected Things designer Justyna Zubrycka at The Journal of Beautiful Business .


What are your thoughts on this topic? How did you develop „digital skills“? We are curious, let us know! Post in the comments below or drop us a line at


* „Die geistig-seelischen Grundkräfte der Erziehungskunst, Spirituelle Werte in Erziehung und sozialem Leben, Dreizehn Vorträge, Oxford vom 16. bis 29. August“, 1922. (GER original)