Posted by: crudbasher | October 29, 2012

Where Smart Toys Will Really Shine

(cc) danorbit

I found this article by Time Magazine that talks about how talking with your children makes a huge impact with how they do in school.

From the article:

[T]his research also reveals something else: that parents, of all backgrounds, don’t need to buy expensive educational toys or digital devices for their kids in order to give them an edge. They don’t need to chauffeur their offspring to enrichment classes or test-prep courses. What they need to do with their children is much simpler: talk.

But not just any talk. Although well-known research by psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley has shown that professional parents talk more to their children than less-affluent parents — a lot more, resulting in a 30 million “word gap” by the time children reach age three — more recent research is refining our sense of exactly what kinds of talk at home foster children’s success at school. For example, a study conducted by researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health and published in the journal Pediatrics found that two-way adult-child conversations were six times as potent in promoting language development as interludes in which the adult did all the talking. Engaging in this reciprocal back-and-forth gives children a chance to try out language for themselves, and also gives them the sense that their thoughts and opinions matter.

So what does this tell us? I believe strongly that neuroplasticity massively influences how we learn. The brain is a massively parallel processing computer essentially but it comes largely unprogrammed. It starts to learn how to do things in a response to stimulus it is presented with. For example the thing most professional athletes, musicians and other extremely talented people have in common is they started very early. The earlier the better. Children’s brains are very flexible in their early years can they can pick up new things very easily. This explains why children are very comfortable with technology (digital natives). They learn it the same way they pick up a foreign language.

The article is discussing that one of the first things the brain has to figure out is language. The more they are exposed to, the better they are in figuring it out, which has the effect of teaching the brain how to learn. Language jump starts the whole learning process.

This got me thinking about where will children get exposed to this the most? How about school? Nope, while they will hear quite a bit, the article points out they need to be in the conversation, not just listening. A class of 30 doesn’t allow for that.

The conclusion the article draws is that parents have to be the source of conversation. I don’t disagree but I think this is where smart toys will supplement that in the future. A smart toy is a toy that can converse with the child and will grow up with them. It will learn what the child likes and will be able to answer questions. The toy will also ask questions to help the child demonstrate competency and encourage interest in new topics.

The technology for this is only a few more years off I think. A bonus question is: if a child becomes used to learning from a smart toy, how will they take to being put into a classroom and being told what to learn, how to learn it, when to learn it, and to be quiet?

See these posts for more info:

How Personalized Learning Will Take Off

Can A Child Love A Robot?

The First Smart Teaching Toy Is Created

Learning From Smart Toys



  1. […] what excited me the most about this video is realizing that these are prototypes for future Smart Toys. Just take this voice interface, put it into a soft cuddly body and let the child converse with it […]

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