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TOYS & GAMES

Kid’s Tech Goes Back to the Future

By Karina Masolova

The future of kid’s tech products sees an overhaul in traditional play patterns even as less modern concerns are being addressed. TLL recently attended the Kids’ & Family Tech Expo in NYC hosted by Child’s Play Communications. From this intimate subset of kid’s tech manufacturers emerges a picture of how the industry is addressing the biggest concerns in kid’s toys: education, namely STEM/STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Their answer: flexibility, customizability, and social.

The basics building blocks are still there, sometimes literally so. As more scientific studies emerge to demonstrate the damaging impact screen time can have on child development, tech companies are responding with products that don’t necessarily depend on the screen—and when they do, the app-connected elements serve to enhance educational lessons to children’s unique learning styles. Primo Toys featured its wooden robot Cubetto, a coding toy geared towards teaching children 3-and-up basic programming-based logic through blocks, no screens necessary.

For the older kids, manufacturers tend to stress app connectivity that enhances play. The additional features available through apps work to extend a toy’s life as well as encourage creativity and critical thinking. Drone manufacturer Parrot Drones and coding education app Tynker partnered to create app-based training puzzles that teach kids how to build programs by controlling physical drones. And Evollve’s Ozobot Bit, aimed at kids aged 8-and-up, is a 1-inch robot that can be programmed through an app as well as lines on paper, by way of color-coded logic-based commands. PlayPointe is the latest company to join the augmented reality storybook trend, complete with coloring book and interactive mobile games. SmartX combines virtual and real world play with a realistic tank fighting toy. On the content side, Galxyz showed off its new interactive educational gaming app Blue Apprentice, launched in partnership with Popular Science.

And then there are the products that aren’t toys. Kinsa showed its smartphone-connected thermometer; the company has partnered with Sesame Street to introduce a Elmo-branded line. The app comes complete with social elements, where parents can join groups and monitor neighborhood health trends. Lansinoh introduced a Bluetooth-enabled breast pump, which connects to its baby monitor app to allow moms to track their baby’s progress and access online resources. And the market is also responding to larger organizational needs: for the kids themselves, B’zT showed washable smart shirts with imbedded tracking technology. Learn’ique is bringing its interior design services online, allowing parents to organize their children’s spaces with the guidance of educators.

In other toy news: The Toy Industry Association is dropping gendered categories for its 2017 Toy of the Year Awards in a bid to “make the awards more relevant and reflective of products in the marketplace,” says Ken Seiter, VP Marketing & Communications at the TIA. Other changes include swapping e-Connected Toy of the Year for Tech Toy of the Year and Outdoor Toy of the Year for Outdoor/Active Toy of the Year. The TIA also added Doll of the Year, Collectible of the Year, Construction Toy of the Year, Vehicle of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

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