Sandbox Summit

Sandbox Summit

Sandbox Summit is a series of conferences that undertake the mission to discover how technology affects the ways children play, learn, and connect with others. As technology becomes more pervasive in the lives of children, the goal of Sandbox Summit is “to ensure that the next generation of players becomes active innovators rather than passive consumers of technology.”1

Sandbox Summit was co-founded by Claire Green and Wendy Smolen. As president of Parents’ Choice Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1978 as a guide to quality children’s media and toys, Claire organized the first Sandbox Summit to commemorate the foundation’s 30th anniversary.2 Wendy has been involved in testing and evaluating toys for over 20 years as well as publishing her findings as editor and writer for several magazines, including Toy Wishes, Nick Jr. Family Magazine, and Parents.3

The first Sandbox Summit was held in January 2008 in conjunction with the 41st International Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada, where over 140,000 people were drawn to view the hottest, most innovative consumer electronics available.4 The four day conference brought marketers, educators, researchers, journalists, and key industry speakers together to address how “techno-toys” can be designed to engage children’s minds as well as their hands. Speakers and panelists represented a variety of key players including those from Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, Cartoon Network, Mattel, Digital Blue, Microsoft, Disney Publishing, The New York Times, and The Princeton Review.5

Featured at the first Sandbox Summit was the release of a research study done by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, which is a research institute that studies the educational potential of digital media. The report entitled “D is for Digital” analyzed the current interactive media environment for children ages 3 to 11. After evaluating over 300 products, the report found that most do not take advantage of available research regarding the educational needs of children. Dr. Michael Levine, Executive Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center stated, “Kids today are spending almost as much time with media as attending school, so there is an opportunity to create more engaging educational products than ever before. Unfortunately, most of the new digital products we reviewed, with notable exceptions, do not yet promote the vital literacy, creativity, and problem-solving skills children need to succeed.”6

Following the success of the first Sandbox Summit, the conferences continued to be held:

  • Sandbox Summit @ New York City – The New Playing Fields: Building a 21st Century Sandbox – September 2008 – focused on the need for toys that allowed for open-ended play, such as blocks and Play-doh7
  • Sandbox Summit @ The 92nd St. Y – Is Play Becoming Too Much Work? – November 2008 – addressed how and why children play and whether all toys needed a learning component8
  • Sandbox Summit @ ToyCon – Pay Attention/Play Attention: Making Play Your Most Valuable Asset – May 2009 – discussed  ways to extend the fundamentals of play adapting existing toys to new trends and technology without destroying the essence of the play9
  • Child’s Play Symposium @ Hofstra University – Why Pixels Need People: Technology Integration 101 – March 2010 – addressed balancing media with the classroom as a learning tool for children who are increasingly involved with technology10
  • Sandbox Summit @ MIT – iPlay, YouPlay, WiiPlay: How Play Is Changing Media & Media is Changing Play – May 2010 – innovators in children’s media, books, toys, virtual worlds, and education discussed how traditional play has been shaped in the 21st century11
  • Sandbox Summit @ MIT – Game Changers: People, Products and Policies that Empower 21st Century Kids –  April 2011 – presented the need to create digital media for children that engages and challenges them12
  • 1. “About Us: The Sandbox Summit Story.” Sandbox Summit. < > 19 April 2011.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. “Bio.” Wendy Smolen. < > 21 April 2011.
  • 4. “Sandbox Summit.” Wendy Smolen. < > 21 April 2011.
  • 5. :Sandbox Summit at CES 2008 A Playdate with Technology.” Sandbox Summit. < > 21 April 2011.
  • 6. “Joan Ganz Cooney Center Finds Cause for Both Concern and Optimism in Billion Dollar Digital Media Industry Tarketing Kids 3-11.” Joan Ganz Cooney Center. < > 21 April 2011.
  • 7. “The New Playing Fields: Building a 21st Century Sandbox.” Sandbox Summit. < > 21 April 2011.
  • 8. “Events.” Sandbox Summit. < > 19 April 2011.
  • 9. “Sandbox Summit @ ToyCon 2009 Pay Attention/Play Attention: Making Play Your Most Valuable Asset.” Sandbox Summit. < > 21 April 2011.
  • 10. “Child Play Symposium. Why Pixels Need People: Technology Integration 101.” Sandbox Summit. < > 21 April 2011.
  • 11. Op. cit., “Events.”
  • 12. Op. cit., “Events.”