Report – Merging Digital and Physical Experiences 

Posted on: Saturday 06 July 2019 10:51pm by Helen Dugdale

Merging Digital and Physical Experiences was a friendly and informal panel discussion looking at the way real-world play and digital play are now entwined. The panel discussed how to help some parents to overcome their resistance to the world of digital as it is now linked to many of their children’s toys. The panel explored the challenges, possibilities and experiences of working in this space.


  • Children use coding to come up with real-world problems and digital solutions
  • A big challenge is communicating to parents that digital isn’t evil.
  • 70% of girls are more interested in learning to code which is a pattern replicated around the world.


To kickstart the hour, moderator Laerke Vindahl asked the panel: “Playing in the real world always needs to encourage children, but how do we blend that with digital?”

Minh Nguyen explained that Lego is developing ways to connect the two worlds. “We have a background in developing physical products and now we’re connecting both worlds. The Duplo Train is a physical train which can be used by itself and also digitally. Our biggest challenge is communicating to parents that digital isn’t evil. The language we use to promote the app is ’free and optional’. We use a soft approach. We’re creating an experience offering interplay between child and parent. We don’t look at technology, we look at what kind of play experience we want to create.”

Rachel Lancaster was keen to get across the fact that they think coding is a foundation skill that all children will need going forward. “We understand that not all children will become a coder, but we want them to be able to experience coding in a fun and engaging way. Then they start coming up with real-world problems and digital solutions, it’s amazing to watch.”

Sophie Deen, the creator of the innovative physical and digital coding toy, Detective Dot, commented that for her, bringing the physical and digital world together is about empowering kids to see inspiring role models and use storytelling to do this. Detective Dot, which had a soft launch in 2018, and will launch officially in 2020 with a wider range of products, was welcomed by parents because it has an education base to it and mixes real-world toys with digital.

Research by Kids Industries showed that children don’t see the labels given to technology like augmented reality used in Pokemon Go, they are merely interested in seamless translation and meaningful interactions.

The panel discussed that some parents still see digital as foe rather than a friend. Minh Nguyen commented that the language Lego used to talk to parents is vital and it’s important to make them feel a part of the journey.

Being an education tool, Micro:bit gets the backing of the parents almost instantly and the fact that the product can be loaned from almost any library and that the brand works within school, helps get buy-in from home.

Overall, it was all about great content rather than the medium and getting the audience to trust them to entertain. The Lego team believe that emotional intelligence comes about from solving a conflict, from creating scenarios and developing different contexts.

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Helen Dugdale

About the author

Helen Dugdale

Scribble, Writer/PR Consultant

Helen is founder of Scribble - the little, but mighty PR and writing agency based in Altrincham. She has over 18 years experience writing for and promoting events and brands aimed at children and families. Helen has written and created content for children’s books, educational resources, TV and radio and… Read more