I want to tell you a story about a problem I encountered while raising my first child, and a solution to that problem.
Like any parent, I was concerned with raising my toddler the right way. I knew instinctively that toys would be a vital part of my child’s play and education, especially after he reached 2 years of age.
In my ignorance, I thought this meant buying my kid an abundance of the kind of toys I had in my childhood—action figures and dolls of all sorts. I thought that these toys naturally offered a more “grown-up” play experience because they had arms and legs and could be thrown together in an imaginary story of my child’s choosing.
But the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry, as the saying goes.
I quickly learned that keeping your toddler interested in his or her toys is just plain hard, especially after they start learning how to read and begin asking you to read to them every night. At that point, all those static action figures and suddenly won’t do. Instead, your toddler will want a storybook doll and a toy story book, too. In other words, they’ll want a storytellerandan educator!
It dawned on me then that a toy all by itself wasn’t going to engage my toddler. He wanted something that challenged his budding faculty of speech and incorporated a narrative into his play. If he had been older and had better developed language skills, I suspect dolls and other actions figures would have been just fine because then his imagination could do all the work without as much assistance.
After conducting some research online, I discovered something I didn’t know before. I learned that toddlers’ preferences change over time, and that from ages 5 to 7 they show an increased preference for storybook dolls and their toy story books. Why? Well, research has shown that at later ages toddlers rely more on narrative stories to learn and relate.
Deborah MacNamara, a clinical counsellor in Vancouver and the author of the bookRest, Play, Grow, a manual for parents, says that children and their toys don’t remain in a static relationship with one another over time. As you child grows, so do the toys they need for proper development.
For instance, babies are very much attached to their parents and caregivers. Their method of learning about the world is with their mouth! This certainly isn’t how toddlers gather information about the world. They tend to explore objects using their hands and feet. This mode of interaction means that toddlers, unlike babies, are always honing their fine motor skills and imagination. Only a toy that is more “open-ended” than the simple baubles of babies will help toddlers develop their faculties appropriately. Storybook dolls, toy story books, and the like would appear to be toys that meet this vital criterion.
MacNamara notes that at or around the age of 5, toddlers begin showing a definite preference for types of play. Among these various forms of expression include building towers and train tracks, taking toys on adventures, and serving food. Simple baby toys simply aren’t cut out for these kinds of complex, narrative-driven activities. Once again, you’d be correct in intuiting that storybook dolls and toy story books fit the criterion for toddler engagement and development.
Ultimately, my mistake was assuming that my kid could graduate to the toys of older children without first having his developmental needs met by storybook dolls and their toy story books.
But this also meant that I would have to buy my toddler a lot more toys than I initially reckoned I would, because he would require more and more complex toys as he aged. By the time my son reached the later stages of toddlerhood, a smart toy for a 1-year-old wouldn’t be as useful to him as a smart toy for a 5-year-old, I thought.
And so I resigned myself to a much more expensive time raising my toddler…that is, until I had the good fortune of stumbling across news of the booming smart toy market! While many smart toys don’t feature a toy story book or function as storybook dolls, Octobo, an interactive plush toy, did!
Because the creator of this octopus toy, Thinker-Tinker, was kind enough to let me test out their product ahead of time, I discovered that Octobo was perfect for my son. Rather than instructing in an overly simplistic manner like old-fashioned storybook dolls or toy story books, this interactive plush toy helped my toddler hone his fine motor skills and emotional maturity while also teaching him letters, colors, and shapes through its various storykits.
Now let me explain why I consider this smart toy to be one of the best learning toys out there.
For starters, Octobo is designed with 0- to 7-year-olds in mind, being both tactile enough to satisfy the developmental needs of babies, and complex enough to meet those of toddlers. In short, Octobo is as good a smart toy for a 2-year-old as it is a smart toy for a 7-year-old.
Octobo largely satisfies the needs of toddlers on the younger side not with its toy story book, but with several sensors located beneath its plush exterior. These sensors enable the smart toy to tell the difference between a poke, hug, or even a handshake, so no matter how your young one explores Octobo, it’ll have an appropriate response—encouraging or discouraging the behavior—ready. Traditional children’s toys—especially run-of-the-mill storybook dolls—fail to reach this level of interactivity (or responsible parenting).
But I’d be remiss if I failed to cut to the chase and describe Octobo’s chief feature: its storykits. From the toy story books that came with the smart toy, I quickly learned that Octobo serves as a storybook doll, but not in the usual manner. My storybooks consisted of the Underwater Adventure Storykit and Great Letter Search Storykit, which were anything but pieces of cardboard with colorful illustrations. Octobo’s toy story books combine reading with interactive tokens and empathetic responses, so your young one is guaranteed lifelike feedback, fine motor skill development, and plenty of familiarity with colors, patterns, and shapes. Based on my toddler’s own experience with this smart toy, I concluded that my storybooks were just as enticing to younger toddlers attracted to colorful tokens as they were engaging for older children looking for narrative-driven play.
And yes, your toddler will be swept up in an exciting and engaging narrative. There’s no need to rely on a toy story book to tell your child about different kinds of sea-life—Octobo will invite them into a whole aquatic world with its witty storyline and enticing sea-related puzzles. Moreover, Simple ABC learning games and rote memorization of letters is a thing of the past—instead, your child will be transported to the magical realm of Puzmo on a mission to find missing letters. As you can guess, my storybooks managed to engage several of my toddler’s faculties within the same game. With 80 custom animations and 26 interactive tokens, Octobo should be the go-to smart toy for preschool girls and boys.
And if my storybooks weren’t enough to keep my toddler satisfied, Octobo’s 8 additional mini games certainly were. Games like “clap the fly,” “what’s inside,” and “poke the rabbits” use amusing animations to encourage various kinds of physical activity. Other games also introduce your child to basic musical notions and spelling contests. Once again, this smart toy’s features incorporate fine motor development, learning, and storytelling into age-appropriate games.
And as an added benefit, I have to mention the fact that Octobo has an ever-expanding digital library. Octobo’s toy story books and games were clearly designed to help toddlers learn shapes, colors and patterns, but future expansion packs for Octobo will help older children develop literacy, numeracy, and memory skills. Additionally, these skills will be taught through behavioral games such as teeth-brushing or toy-organizing, so the play-oriented, narrative element that featured so prominently in my storybooks won’t be going away anytime soon!
And because this smart toy operates with the aid of a tablet, my storybook is guaranteed to save me money as it continues to expand. Even as my son gets bigger and his developmental needs change, Octobo will continue to maintain its firm multi-age serviceability. If you grab this smart toy for yourself, kiss the days of buying mountains of storybook dolls and toy story books to keep you child interested goodbye!
In summary, the only way I can explain this smart toy for preschool boys and girls is by comparing it to a teacher. Would you prefer to have your kid taught by a competent teacher who presents her materials in a dry and drab manner that doesn’t keep your kid engaged? Or would you like your child to have a teacher who always strives to entertain while she educates, ensuring long-term retention of the material presented? The answer is obvious.
After my experience, I wholeheartedly recommend that you give your child the opportunity to interact with the perfect storyteller and purchase an Octobo Starter or Advanced Pack as soon as you can!