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E-book readers and touchscreen tablets are key trends in technology at the moment. As tech-savvy parents take these gadgets home, their children are more likely to imitate their behaviour. With the ongoing age compression trend, the infant and pre-school groups are probably the last age groups where children still list toys as their most wanted items before moving on to their first mobile phone. However, with a higher number of toys incorporating electronic components, the boundaries between toys and electronic devices are becoming blurred at an earlier age.
The latest addition to electronic toys, LeapFrog’s LeapPad is reminiscent of well known device from Apple. The toy, aimed at children aged 4-9, is a touchscreen tablet, and runs apps in a similar fashion to Apple’s IPad, which can be tailored towards education or entertainment; as well as featuring an integrated camera. The new toy is targeted at tech-savvy parents to purchase this for their children. As children tend to mimic the habits of their older siblings and parents, an increasing number of infant and pre-school toys are starting to resemble the gadgets used by their elders. Thus, electronic toys are becoming even more prevalent as well.
The number of infant and pre-school toys with electronic components has been on the increase over the last five years. On average, close to 40% of pre-school toys sold in developed countries feature some electronic component. While pre-school toys are more likely to feature electronic components than infant toys, the proportion varies between countries. It is also worth noting that the function of the electronic component varies between age groups as well. While in infant toys the electronic component aims to attract the attention of children and entertain them, in the pre-school category toys are starting to resemble the devices adults use.
LeapFrog and VTech are two archrivals in technology-based toys, equivalent to Sony and Nintendo in handheld video games consoles, or Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android in mobile phones. VTech already offers InnoTab, a touchscreen e-reader with games and learning programmes, which will compete against LeapFrog’s new LeapPad. VTech also has Mobigo which competes against LeapFrog’s Leapster in handheld educational learning toys.
It will be interesting to see how well children adapt to these technologies and whether they will realise their learning potential, as intended by manufacturers. At £79.99, the children’s tablet is positioned at the upper end of the price spectrum, and is similar in price to Hasbro’s FurReal Friends Cookie, an interactive plush toy, or higher priced LEGO products.