28 February, 2018
Children of all ages gathered in New York City recently for the International Toy Fair. Hidden among already popular toys were new, high-tech educational products.
Educational products are important to the toy industry. In recent years, parents have shown an interest in STEM-related toys – ones that help teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
But now, toymakers are working to create products for improving a child's emotional intelligence. These toys reportedly not only help raise intelligence in children, but also their emotional quotient, or EQ.
Companies showed off their products last week at New York's Jacob Javitz Convention Center.
PleIQ is a set of plastic toy blocks. It uses augmented reality technology to teach words, numbers and other things.
Edison Durán directs the company that makes PleIQ. She showed people at the toy fair how virtual images appear on the blocks when they are held in front of a tablet camera.
Intelligence includes intrapersonal skills -- processing information within one's mind -- and interpersonal skills, or dealing with other people. Durán said PleIQ builds on both by having children act as teacher or guide to a companion character.
On the other side of the convention center, Karen Hu demonstrated an educational robot called Woobo.
Hu asked the hairy green robot: "Hi, what's your name?" With a childlike voice, the toy answered, "Are you trying to trick me? My name is Woobo."
The robot comes programmed with educational games and activities. Children use its touchscreen face to get them started.
Toys that work as companions also aid in social development. Hu described how the robot can help a child who has autism spectrum disorder.
"He [the child] can communicate with Woobo and he can follow some of the instruction Woobo is giving because he think(s) of this as a companion instead of a parent or someone else telling him to certain things."
A more low-tech companion is a toy animal called Manimo. The manufacturer says this toy can help reduce hyperactivity in children and improve their ability to pay attention to a subject.
Whether it's a snake, dolphin or other animal, Manimos can be placed across a child's arm, chest or neck.
Karine Gagner, president of Manimo, explained that adding deep pressure to one's body can help calm a child before bedtime.
At the EQtainment stand, sales director Jonathan Erickson explained the company's toys.
"The purpose of all of our products is to develop emotional and social intelligence," he said.
Erickson showed off a board game called "Q's Race to the Top." Kevin Chaja, also of of EQtainment, said the game got his 4-year-old daughter to open up.
"The biggest thing, is her talking. And that's the key of all this, is getting her to talk, getting her feelings expressed out. Like, ‘Hey, what does it feel like to be sad? Or how does it feel like to be happy?'"
It remains to be seen whether a game or toy can improve emotional intelligence. But toymakers are doing what they can to help parents in their efforts to raise well-rounded children.
I'm Susan Shand.
Tina Trinh reported this story for VOANews. George Grow adapted her report for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
toy – n. a plaything; something a child plays with
quotient – n. the amount of level to which a certain quality exists
augmented reality – n. a version of reality made by the use of technology
companion – n. someone or something that keeps company with another
autism – n. a disorder in which the person is unable to form normal relationships with others
hyperactivity – n. a condition in which a person is overly active