Here are some examples of ways in which high-quality smart toys can help children build skills in different curriculum areas:
CAUSE AND EFFECT
Smart Toy: Intelli-Table, a joint venture between Microsoft and Fisher-Price (www.fisher-price.com)
Description: An electronic busy box, this toy consists of three different activity rings that snap inside a portable toddler-high table. At the center of the table is a coffee plate-size translucent disk, full of lights and surrounded by buttons and switches.
How It Works: Each time the child touches the plate, she hears a sound and sees a light pattern. The toy is highly responsive, and the patterns build upon one another, which makes them fun to play with.
Skills Reinforced: There are a total of three activity rings, including: "Basics" (including opposites, letters, and number concepts), "Music" (including pitch, animal sounds, and instruments), and "Games" (including a memory game).
Age Range: The Intelli-Table is best suited for younger preschoolers (ages 1 to 3).
Price: $70 (requires 4 "AA" batteries)
Smart Toy: Little Smart DJ Jazz 'n Jam, VTech Industries, LLC (www.vtechkids.com)
Description: A 24-note keyboard that lights up when you press a key
How it Works: Kids can record their own compositions and play them back for a large group, or simply experiment with the 40 voices, four drum sounds, or the microphone.
Skills Reinforced: Music, comparing/contrasting sounds, one-to-one correspondence. Age Range: 3 and up
Smart Toy: Little Linguist, Neurosmith (www.neurosmith.com)
Description: A very simple smart toy with IS plastic characters and language cartridges (one for each language)
How It Works: Kids play with the toy by placing the characters on the base and inserting it into the base. As this happens, the toy recites the character's name in Spanish, for instance "el perro" for dog. At upper levels, the toy teaches colors and sentence structure.
Skills Reinforced: Exposure to English, Spanish, Japanese, and French languages, word recognition, color recognition.
Age Range: 1-5
Price: $69.95, additional cartridges, $19.99 each
Remember: You know better than anyone the value of hands-on, tactile experiences for young children. Play with smart toys is a great supplement to traditional toys and materials.