The Science of Why Kids Love Unboxing, Surprise and Board Games

Posted by on 10/10/2019
Kids today, and yes, parents too, love to delve into the world of “unboxing” whether it’s watching unboxing videos, tearing open new or classic games, wrapped gifts, blind item toys, or even fast food Happy Meal surprises. The human brain truly is wired to be curious, and it has an innate inclination to act on a “need-to-know” feeling. Unboxing is “not new”.  As far back as vintage gumball machine treasures, Kinder chocolate eggs with toys inside since 1974, or the hidden prizes to tear open in Cracker Jack boxes, mixed in between the sticky candy contents; surprises, and mystery messages and riddles have been stealthily placed in all kinds of packaging for generations. 

Curiosity is Not New

As the great philosopher, Aristotle, had theorized in 335 BCE, “learning, questioning, being curious, wanting to know how, and why, are all innate characteristics of human nature.” Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, says that for the very youngest children, unboxing can act as both a cognitive experience and a reassurance mechanism.

Piquing Curiosity is Vital to Happy Maturation

Kids love the awe and anticipation for blind bags (non-see-through) and surprise toys. Researchers have found that one of the most important aspects of early brain maturation, is the ability, to “plan” and then follow through and carry out a sequence of activities to problem solve or achieve a goal, driven by curiosity.   Unboxing toys and games offer an opportunity to open and often, opened again, boxes and packaging to achieve another necessary early brain building function, identified as “attention”.  The mental exercise of being focused on something, perhaps unboxing a package like the Lucky Poke Games; then changing the focus, upon finding an inner surprise within the games, instills a sense of happiness and task completion. Being able to sustain interest for longer lengths of time, to discover the toy or surprise, and play with it, or use it in a new game or imaginary way, leads to higher math and literacy skills.  Charlotte Keating, Child Psychologist and Neuroscientist, suggests that desires for experiencing the wonder of unboxing and surprise toys doesn’t depend solely on the attractiveness of toys color or shape. It is also about the numbers of their peers who find the object to be desirable, that gets and keeps their focus and attention.
Executive Function – Mental Skill Building

The most recent research that documents the motivators and actions which occur during early brain maturation, instilling learning life skills, and even the quality and depth of children’s happiness, are a specific set of 4 capabilities, which psychologists have defined as being “executive function”:
1. Working memory:  retaining and utilizing numerous thoughts mentally
2. Strategizing:  having the ability to plan a sequence of actions and movements which successfully resolve challenges, problem solve, and adapt to¬¬¬ changes when necessary.
3. Focus/Attention, having a clear visual definition of the center point of an activity, and sustaining or shifting it when necessary
4. Impulse Control – taking charge of and managing activity to guide more thoughtful actions, reactions and gratification

Adele Diamond, Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia has stated that: “Various studies have shown that executive function skills are more important early in life, that reading, math skills or even a child’s IQ.

How Unboxing and Surprises Nurture Nature

The parental interaction and connection found when research discovered the executive function skills, is that these skills can be honed and deeply imparted by parental acts which nurture and stimulate interaction. Parents want to stimulate their children to take their curiosity to new levels and find success and achievement for their efforts. It is possible to influence a child’s ability to focus, to exert effort on a learning task, or relate one idea to another.” The use of board games, mystery objects, and surprises are brain builders for children, and nurture their ability to perform executive functions. Stuart Shanker, Professor of Psychology at York University, and an expert in brain development, in Canada, has stated that it’s imperative to get kids to sit and listen, in order to have successful results. This is accomplished by playing classic games with family members, such as chess, Clue, and other non-techie games like Scrabble, Simon Says, I Spy, Monopoly, and yes, unboxing, poking and exploratory games, like Lucky Poke Games, with surprises, which works because it involves multiple steps and actions, to achieve positive goals.

Nurturing and the Unwrapping Process

The Atlantic has an in-depth article on how the videos that preschoolers click on can reveal a lot about their development and psyches. Unboxing videos offer repetition, and the kinds of mystery and surprise that tweaks children’s curiosity, and need to know what, and why.  Rachael Barr, a Developmental Psychologist at Georgetown University, has found through her research, that children love things which are enclosed or encased, and those which require an unwrapping process, or several reveals in which surprises and encase in packaging. They feel a sense of being in charge of the activity when engaging in unboxing, finding surprises, or solving the mystery of an activity, and gaining a positive result.
Michael Rich, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and the director of the Center on Media and Child Health, told The Atlantic. The short unwrapping videos are basically brain candy.  They are fun, often cartoonish, colorful, brief in length, and often repetitive. All of these elements comfort and nurture children.

Benefits of Board Games

Board games gently teach important social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing and positive interaction, waiting, and turn-taking. Board games promote and encourage the ability to focus and lengthen children’s attention spans by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game, when mysteries are solved, and surprises are involved. Studies, year after year, have determined that game playing is generational, and good for everyone. Playing board games strengthens family bonds, while stimulating complex thoughts and memory through the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of each child.

Unboxing – It’s A Phenomena?

There’s no scientific consensus on the impact of kids’ unboxing content on YouTube. Most experts, scientists and psychologists, see it as an exploratory learning tool which stimulates the imagination, and quenches innate curiosity.

A far better activity is playing board games which include elements that the healthy, developing brain craves; strategizing, puzzle solving, mystery, taking chances, challenges, risk, and surprises. These games incite laughter, wonder, critical thinking, the use of logic and much more. For families they offer each member the chance to know each other, in the kind of environment where love deepens, and happiness thrives.  Science is informational and reassuring about numerous topics. However, the evaluation of family love, has a universal consensus, as the most cherished emotion human beings possess.
Lucky Poke Games celebrates family, family game nights, birthday parties and more with hole poking, surprises, mystery, and numerous reasons to burst out in giggles, as discovery reveals unexpected treasure. Visit us and find out what your next celebration might be like, with 24 chances to unbox, and enjoy.