Amid the oozed fashion for the developing toys, the words "smart toy" sound more and more often. Of course, each person puts his own sense into the phrase. Some parents consider that it is the toy that stimulates brain activity of the kid and rank all puzzles, chess and play cubes as smart toys. Others believe that only multifunctional, interactive and/or remote-controlled toys are smart, like Furby or some kind of robot. The third don't draw any line between the developing and smart toys, believing that any toy bears in itself the developing potential. So nevertheless, what is a smart toy? What functions does it have and what tasks does it solve?
There is a scientific classification of toys familiar to most tutors, teachers and so on. Toys are divided into groups depending on materials, age of children and pedagogical purpose. The last factor interests us most of all now. In this group there are two big sections. Those are the educational toys and toys familiarizing children with elements of science and technology.
The educational toy is intended for intellectual development as it contains training element, and expansion of their general outlook. Educational toys for preschool children usually consist of different elements. They can be assembled-dismantled, arranged, built, sorted and displayed. The definition is quite broad. Also, it turns out that the educational toy is a full synonym of the developing toy. The technical toy easily introduces the kid into the world of the technology. These toys help to get acquainted with the structure of various devices, learn to see relationship of cause and effect, develop skills of independent designing and construction. It turns out that robots and electronic toys just belong into this group.
There is likewise no unity in understanding of the term "smart toy" among manufacturers. And it is used by them rather as the marketing strategy, a beautiful slogan, tempting for parents. The choice of products in most games and toys shops is also very wide-ranging as retailers obviously hold the third opinion: "Any toy is useful. Any toy is smart". Consequently, you find there higgledy-piggledy cars and puzzles, dolls and board games, with couple of interactive novelties squeezed in between.
Let's address the psychological point of view. In pedagogics and psychology there is a concept of next development zone. The child resolves any task through two decision levels — independently and with assistance of an adult. The zone of the next development is just a new ability or thought that the kid can't see to yet by himself, but can master over time with helping hand of the adult. Thus, the properties of a smart toy, have to answer the needs or lie in the next development zone -the toy that helps the kid to master a certain skill or capability. Too “easy” toy which trains the expertise which the child has already quickly becomes uninteresting and useless. Parents perfectly know that having frolicked enough with a toy, having learned all her features, having played all game combinations, the child seeks to occupy himself with something new. He unconsciously seeks for further development. And the most preferred toys which don't exhaust the potential are smart toys. Because, playing with them, the kid steadily continues to develop.
Training is the social process born at interaction. Children need to be shown how to play the toys to advance their abilities. At start kids cannot concentrate and hack it long enough, or perhaps, will lose interest because of excessive complexity, failures or just lack of understanding in sense of a game. The theory of zone of the next development clearly states to help the child in any process. It is not enough to buy a toy and give it to a kid. Show should be included in a game. Assist him couple of times, draw his interest, play together before the toy becomes interesting enough for self-play. It is necessary to advance slightly present abilities of the child then it will be interesting to him, and development will pace faster.
Digital toys and internet-connected devices for children, is a rapidly growing market, along with intelligent building blocks, smart racing cars and drones, robots that teach kids how to code, and even a smart rubber duck aimed at the very young.
“The industry is getting away from just the screen,” says Tonda Bunge Sellers, who organizes the Digital Kids event. “The app is going to the background and the toy is where you interact.” Smart toys are gaining in popularity, partly because of a concern about kids spending too much time looking at screens, she says. “The physical is making it make more sense to the parent,” she adds.
Some welcome the crossover between toys and screens, saying that when the technology becomes less visible, play comes to the fore. Pure play with a side effect of learning is key to creating balanced people in life. And authentic play experiences with technology are possible if the technology is designed properly. The advanced technology can enable pure play, engaging kids using classic, habitual “play patterns”. Some appeal to the builder-creator instinct, other plea to children’s collector spirit – and both involve social play. These play patterns help to keep children engaged beyond the initial novelty of a device or game.
It is very important to choose age-appropriate toys that match the age and stage of children (too hard is frustrating, too easy is boring). As young minds open up when empowered. Kids want to know what it is, what it can do and what they can do with it, and they like surprises and unexpected connections. And that’s exactly what smart toys are standing for.