There’s a remarkable new trend in the world of toys—the increasing popularity of toddler learning toys and apps for toddlers.
The smart toy industry really is booming. From 2018 to 2023 smart toy revenues will dominate 25 percent of the hardware and software market in the UK alone. They’re expected to increase a whopping 200 percent or $18 billion!
Why this massive growth-spurt? In-app purchases, which are tied to the growing popularity of smartphone-connected toys. Displacing traditional console-based toys, smart toys alone are expected to grow by 69 percent annually over the next five years.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself in this position: You’re thinking of buying a toddler learning toy that can both entertain and educate your child. But you’re worried. You’re worried that one of these toddler learning toys—even though they’re some of the top toddler toys out there—are actually bad for your kid. Why? Because screen time is bad for your kid…right?
Well, that’s only half of the story. Not all apps for toddlers will have a negative effect on your child. In fact, if you find the right apps for toddlers, you won’t have to worry about downsides to getting your young one a smart toy.
Let’s admit this up front: a tablet simply isn’t user-friendly if your user is a kid! But pair it with an interactive plush toy like Octobo, and you can bring the latest in tech to your children in a fun, interactive way! Neither the simplistic pass/fail interactions of traditional children's toys nor the non-narrative interactions offered by these products for will do—instead, Octobo ends up being one of the top toddler toys on the market because it offers story-driven interactions and lifelike empathetic responses to help your kid grow!
But before we talk about how this octopus toy can teach your child in a healthy way, let’s first address the elephant in the room: screen time. If you’ve browsed the internet looking for the pros and cons of toddler learning toys and apps for toddlers, you’ve probably come across a variety of news articles and blog posts decrying the negative effects screen time can have on your child.
One study published this year in the journalJAMA Pediatrics found a direct association between screen time at ages 2 and 3 and development at ages 3 and 5. (The study surveyed 2,441 mothers and children in Canada between 2011 and 2016.) The more screen time—including watching TV programs, films or videos, gaming, and using a computer, tablet, phone or any other screen-based device—the children studied had in their earlier years of toddlerhood, the poorer their communication, motor skills, and problem-solving and personal social skills later on. In other words, more screen time can possibly result in delays in meeting crucial developmental milestones at the 36- and 60-month marks.
However, Andrew Przybylski, an associate professor and director of research at the University of Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute, claims, “[t]he conclusions drawn are overly strong for the method used,” and that while “[m]uch of this study is well conducted … there are huge limitations to be aware of in terms of the practical implications of the work.” He also added that it is premature to advise that “limiting screen time alone will improve developmental outcomes for children in any meaningful way.”
Additionally, the sample of children in the study may not be representative of the broader population. Many of the children in the study hadinordinate amounts of screen time. At the age of two, the children had around 17 hours of screen time per week. This number increased to around 25 hours a week by the age of three, and dropped to around 11 hours a week at the age of five.
So what does this all mean? Does it mean all toddler learning toys are bad?
No, of course not. The data doesn’t show that toddler learning toys and apps for toddlers are badper se, but only when used without moderation.
Luckily, the American Academy of Pediatrics hasreleased guidelines for children ages 2 to 5 with regard to screen use. Preschool children should only watch about one hour of “high-quality programming” a day, not the average two to three hours per day.It also says parents should designate media-free times together, such as during dinner or driving, and media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. This advice can easily be applied to toddler learning toys, not just television consumption.
It’s also important to note that the above study didn’t distinguish the types of screen time engaged in, e.g. between passive television-watching and actively using apps for toddlers, so this is something to keep in mind as well. It’s quite possible that toddler learning toys and the educational apps for toddlers they come with them can have a positive effect at longer amounts of screen time than other, more traditional kinds of screen time, like television consumption.
A study from the University of Washington showed that seven-month-olds who interacted with a Mandarin Chinese speaker in real life were better able to distinguish Mandarin sounds from English, while groups exposed to a DVD or audio had no language acquisition whatsoever. Experts say that responsive interactions between children and their teachers, as well as non-sedentary activities (which develop gross motor skills into fine ones) can contribute to holistic rather than one-dimensional development.
This means that the screen-swiping demanded by most apps for toddlers simply won’t do. Apps for toddlers and the toddler learning toys that use them should be interactive at multiple levels (visual, auditory, and tactile) and designed for the particular stage of development your child is it. In fact, experts say an open-ended, responsive, choose your own adventure-style app will have far more educational benefits.
These recommendations appear to make Thinker-Tinker’s Octobo one of the best learning toys for your toddler. Let me explain.
First off—Octobo lets you set the exact amount of screen time your child can have when interacting with this smart plush toy. The Parent Portal on the Octobo App allows you to set time limits to your exact specifications, so you shouldn’t have any trouble obeying the experts’ recommendations on screen time, as listed above.
Moreover, Octobo’s operating system mimics healthy social relationships. Most apps for toddlers and toddler learning toys simply stop at whatever time limit is set, meaning that your kid might not understand why he can’t have more screen time. This would be the equivalent of walking into the room and yanking your child’s toy—essentially their playmate—away without the slightest word of explanation, and so this means of reducing time really doesn’t really become a “teachable moment,” as we parents are apt to call them.
Luckily, Octobo really is one of the top toddler toys out there because it’s one of few that will actually tell your child why it’s turning off. This toddler learning toy will say, “I’m feeling tired and need to rest now. Let’s play again later,” teaching your child to respect personal boundaries while also keeping them at a healthy minimum of screen time. This will also give your child a helpful model for expressing their needs in the future—they might want to set limits on how much they play with others!
Second—Octobo is one of the top toddler toys available because its apps are all interactive! Television consumption is completely passive, while most apps for toddlers and toddler learning toys relegate themselves to a simple pass/fail set-up: your child either gets the right answer or they don’t. But Octobo proves itself to be one of the top learning toys you can get your children, precisely because it meets the physical, mental, and emotional developmental needs of your toddler, whatever age they might be. Octobo is a smart toy for a 1 year old as much as it is a smart toy for a 5-year-old!
For instance, if you’re particularly concerned about your 0-2 year old’s fine motor development, Octobo has built-in sensors beneath its plush exterior, allowing it to distinguish between a poke to the eye and a gentle hug. This top toddler toy issues different (and responsible) responses to your child depending on how they physically interact with it, whether it be a handshake or a tickle, meaning Octobo also teaches your child cause and effect.
This gets us to another unique feature of Octobo—it’s empathetic responses. This top toddler toy is programmed to interact with your child in a truly lifelike manner. This smart toy isn’t just another glowing screen, but a kindred spirit your child will think of as a true playmate. Like a good parent or caregiver, it will praise your child for succeeding at the various games it offers, a key way of encouraging empathy and cooperation as well as active play.
This brings me to another huge component to this toddler learning toy’s interactivity—its storykits. Octobo’s Underwater Adventure Storykit and ABC learning game make use of tokens which it scans with an RFID reader. Because these storykits present lessons about shapes, patterns, and colors through the framework of adventure, your older toddlers, including those from 5 to 7 years of age, will hone their language skills in a fashion that integrates all the senses. This innovative storytelling—featuring storybooks, tokens, and friendly feedback—makes Octobo stand out from other top toddler learning toys, which only offer a simple pass/fail model during gameplay. In total, Octobo includes 26 magic story tokens, 80 custom animations, and 8 mini-games.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Octobo’s ease of use and travel—it connects via Bluetooth and requires no wires or wifi, meaning that you can take it in the car or on the plane with minimal hassle (a perfect way to keep your kid meaningfully engaged even while in transit). Not to mention that as a toddler learning toy that relies on apps for toddlers, Octobo ensures you’ll never have to buy another smart toy again!
Now that I’ve run through the gamut of features Thinker-Tinker’s Octobo offers, it’s apparent that this smart toy is one of the top toddler toys on the market to date! You can pre-order a starter pack or advanced pack for $129 or $159, respectively. It’s a smart toy purchase you certainly won’t regret.