You wouldn't want your kid to be friends with someone with no affect or emotions—a cold and heartless person—would you? You wouldn’t want your kid to associate with another child that never talked and only played the simplest of games. And you definitely wouldn’t want a playmate that didn’t help your kid learn about the right way to treat others.
In other words, you wouldn’t want your child to interact with someone who’s boring.
So why would you let you kid play with an emotionless, old-fashioned toy that provides none of those things? Toys occupy many of the same roles as parents and playmates, often serving as substitutes when one or the other group is too busy to play. It wouldn’t make sense to hold our kid’s playmates to one standard and toys to another, especially if there’s an interactive plush toy out there that can meet all your expectations.
Luckily, smart toys offer exactly what your young one needs. Smart toys are toys that aren’t “dumb.” More specifically, smart toys are toys that respond to your child’s actions and fulfill their needs in a lifelike manner. Unsurprisingly, the best learning toys or interactive plush toys are smart toys, because only smart toys mimic real human behavior. Smart toys can be responsive while also being spontaneous, unlike traditional toys, which can only respond in a limited number of ways and often with a minimal range of emotions.
But before we start discussing one of the best learning toys on the market, let’s talk a little more about the importance of emotional and physical engagement for your child.
We all acknowledge the importance of parents’ ability to understand why a baby is crying or acting a certain way, but we often underestimate the importance of exposing a child to a diverse array of emotional stimuli, whether they be visual, auditory, or some combination of the two.
Psychological research suggests that children and even babies are evolutionarily adapted to detect facial features and emotions during their first six months.In one study, infants appeared to demonstrate the ability to make the proper connection between a voice expressing happiness or anger and the corresponding facial expression.
These babies also exhibited a marked preference for happy rather than angry expressions, and appeared to notice when an angry or happy voice didn’t match up with the appropriate facial expression. Even though this stage of development is a very early one, there’s no denying that interacting with faces is vital for the development of your child.
We also tend to forget the importance of touch in a child’s life.Researchers have made a connection between lack of touch in group residential care situations—namely, orphanages—and increased infant mortality rate and decreased physical growth. Lack of human touch also makes it harder for a child to connect human touch with pleasure, which is the basis of empathy. Touch-deprived children tend to develop an aversion to physical contact and have trouble bonding.
One study noted that “‘feral’ children who have survived with minimal human contact illustrate the severe lack of language and emotional development in the absence of love, language and attention.” Additionally, it suggested that “hugs, lullabies and smiles from parents could inoculate babies against heartbreak, adolescent angst and even help them pass their exams decades later.”
And lastly, we must remember that children learn how to behave by imitating the behavior of others. This is called “modeling.” Numerous researchers have shown that children closely imitate those around them, especially their parents. AnAustralian study released just last year confirmed that children across Western and non-Western cultures engage in imitation to such a degree that they even engage in “over-imitation,” modeling completely unnecessary behaviors. If children are always watching their parents, they’re almost certainly watching their playmates with a similar degree of attentiveness.
But if all this is true, why get your kid a traditional children’s toy, which usually has only one fixed facial expression and typically offers a single pass/fail game? Believe it or not, traditional children’s toys are just like the cold-hearted person described earlier. From the point of view of your child’s development, there’s little difference between the toys your young one interacts with and his or her real-life playmates.
Luckily, parents aren’t stuck with traditional children’s toys, because smart toys have begun hitting the market, including some of the best learning toys ever produced. One of these interactive plush toys is Octobo, designed by Thinker-Tinker, a team of designers and parents in Los Angeles, California. Relying on the latest in psychological science, Octobo is one smart toy that fulfills the role of real-life playmate for your 2 to 7-year-old child. As we’re about to see, this interactive plush toy comes with emotionally rich, playful, and self-directed features traditional toys lack.
For one, Octobo offers a variety of empathetic responses, including facial expressions and songs. With interactive plush toys like Octobo, your young one will never be left wondering what their playmate feels, or if they even have emotions. Octobo lives up to its designation as a smart toy—it possesses eight separate sensor arrays and LED lighting, allowing it to light up and change facial expressions.
And again, Octobo isn’t like traditional children’s toys, with a single button for a single response. Octobo’s sensors can distinguish between pokes, wiggles, tickles, and handshakes, something even those ever-huggable stuffed toys fail to do. (Think about how invaluable smart toys will be when teaching your child how to treat pets with respect and consideration!)
By interacting with one of the best learning toys on the market, your child will learn how to properly respond to his playmate emotionally, depending on what makes the smart toy “disappointed” or “happy.” By engaging with this interactive plush toy, your young one will also learn how to properly express their own feelings and needs through modeling.
And with one of these smart toys, you’ll never have to worry about your child being at a loss for encouragement when it comes to modeling correct behavior. As we all know, most traditional children’s toys don’t provide any guidance at all. They rely on their users to learn a correct response through trial and error. In contrast, Octobo is an interactive toy that models and encourages good behavior, such as teeth-brushing, cleaning up, and respecting rest time. Smart toys such as these not only take on the role of play partner, they also act as a mini-parent, ensuring your child is always learning in a positive way, even when you or a fellow adult doesn’t have the time.
Finally, these interactive plush toys provide your young one with several games that he or she might play with you, another adult, or a playmate of a similar age. Even if they lack Octobo’s emotional and sensory abilities, the best learning toys and smart toys will come with interactive features. The overtly simple “pass/fail” interactions of traditional children’s toys and the non-narrative interactions they offer don’t give your kid lifelike, real-time feedback like smart toys would, nor do they engage your young one’s budding imagination. Unlike these static, unengaging toys, smart toys like Octobo really do offer story-driven interactions that demonstrate cause and effect, encourage active play, and model core concepts like empathy and cooperation to help your kid grow.
Octobo proves itself to be one of the best learning toys out there with its ABC learning game. This king of octopus toys comes with several interactive Storykits—such as the Underwater Adventure Storykit and the Great letter Search Storykit—specifically designed to engage your child emotionally and imaginatively as other smart toys would in different formats. Your child gets a positive empathetic response from Octobo is they correctly identify a specific token on a storybook page and place in Octobo’s bowl. Not only do smart toys make you kid smart, they make him or her a more well-rounded person, something that even the best learning toys or interactive plush toys rarely manage.
And because Octobo comes with eight interactive mini-games and a spelling contest mode featuring a variety of physical actions, your child develops their fine motor skills too, just as they would playing with a real-life playmate.
Smart toys like Octobo definitively prove that the faceless, heartless, lifeless, and soulless toys of the traditional mold aren’t the future of child development. Octobo is one of the best learning toys on the market, and certainly one of the best interactive plush toys you can purchase for your child.
Parents shouldn’t despair over the inadequacy of traditional children’s toys. There’s no need to buy another “dumb” toy again. Smart toys like Octobo finally allow parents to apply the same criteria they apply to their children’s friends as they do their toys!