Festooned with technology so advanced they may as well be magic, smart toys are all the rage among savvy parents these days. Here are seven sophisticated children’s toys that will further your child’s development through play.
Technology has taken over every corner of our lives, so it’s inevitable that ‘smart’ versions of children’s toys have now crept into the consciousness of the buying public.
From toy caterpillars that introduce the concepts of coding, to light-up cubes that offer brain games, and even a ping pong-sized robot ball that contains tech comparable to your mobile phone, tech-enabled children’s toys are redefining the role of play.
What’s a parent bringing up a child in today’s tech-obsessed world to do? Pony up and join in, of course, lest your little one misses out.
Aren’t smart children’s toys a waste of money since they outgrow them so fast?
Good question, dear reader.
Spending hard-earned money on something your child may disregard in mere weeks or months is certainly a valid concern. However, think of it as an investment in your child’s future.
Play is widely acknowledged as important to a child’s healthy development, crucial in fostering imagination and creativity, while also stimulating cognitive growth. Other important benefits include encouraging literacy, independence and physical development and fitness. And, when children play together, they can also develop social skills such as empathy, cooperation and sharing.
With the emergence of sophisticated STEM-based toys (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), young children nowadays have even greater opportunities to accelerate their growth, picking up and developing more advanced skills at a younger age.
Early exposure to these tech-enabled toys can also spark a lifelong interest in the cutting-edge sectors of tomorrow, such as engineering and coding, but also robotics and other advanced principles. This could lead to a successful career in adulthood.
Not convinced? Check out our list of seven children’s toys that are so sophisticated you just may develop pangs of jealousy.
7 tech-enabled toys that will give your child the advantage
|Toy||Recommended age||Skills taught||Price|
|Let’s Dance Elmo||3 months to 2 years||Body movement, motor skills||S$120 at Amazon.sg|
|Remote Control Cartoon Cars||1.5 years and up||Fine motor skills, cause and effect||S$48 at Amazon.sg|
|VTech Touch and Teach Word Book||1.5 to 4 years||Reading, vocabulary||S$36.50 at Amazon.sg|
|Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar||3 to 6 years||Logic, creativity, problem solving||S$105 at playhao.com|
|ScratchJr Coding App||5 to 7 years||Creativity, problem solving, storytelling, coding||Free on iOS and Android|
|Flashdash Electronic Flashing Cube||6 years and up||Brain skills, hand-eye coordination||S$70 at Amazon.sg|
|Sphero Mini||8 years and up||Coding, robotics||S$75 at toytag.com|
Let’s Dance Elmo
Price: S$120 at Amazon.sg
Recommended age: 3 months to 2 years
Skills taught: Body movement, motor skills
Based on the popular Sesame Street character, Let’s Dance Elmo is a delightful and fun toy that teaches your toddler the joys of moving their bodies.
The 12-inch tall moving doll sings and dances along as it plays three children’s tunes about colours, animals and songs. It also occasionally calls out encouraging phrases, praising your child for participating.
As Elmo moves different parts of his body to the beat, watching toddlers will be motivated to mimic his movements. In this way, your child naturally learns various body movements, such as head bopping, arm waving, or shaking their hips, while honing their balance, coordination and other physical development.
Made of safe, durable plastic, the toy is long-lasting and simple to operate – simply press the button on Elmo’s headphones to get the party started.
Remote Control Cartoon Cars
Price: S$48 at Amazon.sg
Recommended age: 1.5 years onwards
Skills taught: Fine motor skills, cause and effect
Given young children’s fascination with toy cars, this pair of remote-controlled toy cars is sure to provide hours of entertainment and fun.
With bright colours, attractive sounds and flashing lights, even the crankiest kids will soon be enamoured. For older children, they’ll have a blast learning to drive and control the vehicles themselves.
Each vehicle in this two-pack comes with its own controller. The steering wheel-shaped remote control is designed for easy operation even by young children, with only two buttons – one for forward, and another for reverse-left.
Also, the controllers run on different radio frequencies, so up to two children (or you and your child) can play at the same time.
Playing with remote control cars can help young children develop fine motor skills, as well as hand-eye coordination. They will also learn the basics of cause and effect (i.e., Do A and B happens).
VTech Touch and Teach Word Book
Price: S$36.50 at Amazon.sg
Recommended age: 1.5 to 4 years
Skills taught: Reading, vocabulary
Introduce your preschooler to the magic of words with the Touch and Teach Word Book, a tech-enabled toy and teaching aid rolled into one.
The interactive book comes alive with a touch, delighting young learners with sounds, words and music. Within the 12 fully-coloured pages, the Touch and Teach contains over 100 words across six categories, helping young learners build up a working vocabulary. There are also 90 unique sounds, and 15 different melodies, so there’s plenty to explore and enjoy.
Four play modes are available – What’s the Word?, Letter Fun, Music Time and Find It – ensuring your toddler stays thoroughly entertained as they learn to recognise and pronounce common words.
Additionally, the touch-driven nature of the book also helps your child develop fine motor skills as they play and learn.
Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar
Price: S$105 at playhao.com
Recommended age: 3 to 6 years
Skills taught: Logic, creativity, problem solving
The Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar is quite the clever little toy. It is a brightly coloured toy ‘caterpillar’ that can be programmed to move in different ways.
The body of the toy is made up of several interchangeable segments, each containing a different instruction. Some go left or right, others go straight, and one even plays a sound.
The behaviour of the toy, then, depends on the order in which the segments are connected, and rearranging the segments results in a different path. The segments even light up in sequence, helping children develop an understanding of logic.
As young children play with the toy, they can exercise their creativity and problem solving skills to control the caterpillar’s movement.
You can further stretch your child’s abilities by challenging them to programme the toy to reach a designated area, or to predict its movements.
ScratchJr Coding App
If your five-year-old is spending too much time mindlessly watching Spongebob clips on your iPad, it’s time to give her something a bit more interactive.
Download the free app ScratchJr and transform your tablet into a fun and vibrant game that teaches your child to create her own interactive stories and games.
By snapping together graphical programming blocks, children can make colourful cartoon characters perform certain actions, such as moving, jumping, dancing and singing. They can also change the characters’ colours and make other modifications in the included paint editor. Children can even insert photos of themselves.
In the process, children get to exercise their creativity and imaginations, while learning how to solve problems. They also learn how to create stories and express themselves using the tablet, instead of simply using the tablet to watch cartoons.
Based on the popular Scratch programming language created by MIT, ScratchJr serves as an attractive introductory tool that will spark an early interest in coding, setting your little one up for success in a world where technology is becoming increasingly important.
Flashdash Electronic Flashing Cube
Price: S$70 at Amazon.sg
Recommended age: 6 years and up
Skills taught: Brain skills, hand-eye coordination
Meet the Rubik’s Cube’s tech-enabled cousin.
The Flashdash Electronic Flashing Cube is a popular toy among children for its flashing lights and fun games, and among parents for its many purported benefits. Playing with the Flashdash is said to help your child improve memory and other brain skills, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity.
The individual squares on the cube are programmed to flash when a game is chosen, acting as input buttons and other interactive elements. There are four games available: Chase Me and Catch Me, which are useful in honing reflexes, as well as Follow Me and Remember Me, which are designed to test the player’s memory.
The Flashdash also has a Lightshow mode, which causes dazzling colourful lights to cascade all across the cube. It also has adjustable volume, making the toy a great option for long commutes and quiet play.
Price: S$75 at toytag.com
Recommended age: 8 years and up
Skills taught: Coding, robotics
The Sphero Mini is perhaps unimpressive at first glance, being a plastic ball no larger than a ping pong ball. But just wait till you pair it with your mobile phone – that’s when the toy comes alive, responding to your commands via the magic of robotics.
You see, packed inside its unassuming shell are all manner of advanced technology, including an accelerometer, a gyroscope and LED lights, which basically makes the Sphero Mini a robot.
When connected with a compatible mobile device, your child can use the companion app to control the robotic ball, flicking, swiping or tapping the screen to make it move or stop. Various games can be played this way – tabletop mini bowling, anyone?
On the flipside, the Sphero Mini itself can also act as a controller. Rotating or dragging it with your hand lets you play games on your mobile phone via the app.
Charge your smart toy to the right cashback credit card and stand to earn attractive rewards. Terms and conditions apply.
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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.