As you may have noticed, it doesn’t take much effort to convince a kid to play. That’s why toy companies perform such a vital role in educating our children. If you’re interested in giving your offspring a leg up in school, you may want to watch for these fun products introduced at CES 2016. They all use technology to impart valuable skills on the sly.
With its great big eyes, friendly smile, and drooping, dog-ear-like antennas, this rolling caterpillar is hard to resist—especially when it begins to light up and chirp.
But here’s what makes the $49.99 toy extra charming: Each of the six segments between the motorized head and tail is designed to perform a different function. One moves the creature forward, another turns it to the left, a third makes it pause briefly, and so on. By shifting the pieces around, thereby altering the sequencing, your pre-school-age Einstein learns the basics of coding, or computer programming, without even realizing it.
Look for the Code-A-Pillar in stores this fall.
Kolibree’s Smart Sonic Toothbrush
Every parent knows what a chore it is to get a child to brush his or her teeth. No matter how you approach it, it always ends up as two minutes of torture. But the team at Kolibree has come up with a deceptively smart way to relieve your stress. How? By turning the toothbrush into a game controller.
Weighing a mere 2.5 ounces, the $149 device looks like a regular electric toothbrush, but the motion sensors inside it map each stroke in your child’s mouth, relaying the data via Bluetooth to an app on your phone. If the child is ignoring the molars on the left, you can see it on his or her tooth chart.
That’s all very useful, but it’s certainly not going to lure your child to the bathroom sink. So bring on the fun. Kolibree has created two games—a pirate treasure hunt and a soon-to-be-released rabbit race—that encourage kids not only to reach every tooth in their mouths, but also angle the brush in the correct way. They don’t realize it, of course. What they see on a laptop or tablet screen is a pirate or rabbit that must be propelled through a series of obstacles. It’s not speed or vigor that makes that happen, but rather proper technique.
As an added incentive, the Kolibree handle can record data for up to five different brush tips and rank each family member’s performance. Kolibree is currently working on a program that will even allow you to share that info with your dentist.
So where does the "sonic" from the product name come in? That would be the device’s gentle vibration system, designed to promote plaque removal without harming the gums.
LEGO's Education WeDo 2.0
Designed specifically for use in classrooms—grades two through four—Lego’s new Education WeDo 2.0 series cleverly disguises engineering and science lessons as toy blocks.
The $159 starter kit features many of the Lego bricks children are accustomed to using, but it also includes a small motor, a Bluetooth-enabled Smarthub, and motion and tilt sensors. The projects encourage kids to work in teams to investigate, design and model solutions to various challenges. In one case, they have to demonstrate the metamorphosis from tadpole to frog, identifying the organism’s characteristics at several stages along the way. In another, they demonstrate the principles of pollination. They get to build cool things like rescue helicopters and Mars rovers, too.
And, once they’ve completed the models, the kids can program them to perform simple functions using a laptop or a tablet and the Bluetooth Smarthub. The goal is not to simply relay information, but rather to strengthen problem-solving skills—and perhaps inspire your child to pursue a career in a STEM-related field.
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