Tuesday May 21, 2019

New Toys Help Cultivate Emotional Intelligence in Children

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There was plenty of slime and llamas in red pajamas at the International Toy Fair earlier this week in New York. Hidden among these popular playthings were a number of toys that cater to the modern-day kid, with plenty of technology built in.

Educational toys are a mainstay in the industry, and S.T.E.M. toys, those that incorporate principles of science, technology, engineering, and math, have garnered attention in recent years. But now, toymakers are addressing children’s emotional intelligence as well, with toys that not only cultivate their IQ but their EQ, or emotional quotient.

PleIQ is a set of plastic toy blocks that use augmented reality technology to showcase a variety of words, numbers, and lessons to children. PleIQ CEO Edison Durán demonstrated how virtual characters and miniature storybook scenes pop up on the blocks when they’re held in front of a tablet camera.

ALSO READ: 4 Robots That Aim to Teach Your Kids to Code

“Every side of a block, every letter, every number and every symbol becomes a 3-D interactive learning experience specially designed to foster the multiple intelligence of preschoolers,” Durán said.

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Intelligence here includes intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, and PleIQ builds on these by having kids play the role of teacher or guide. Pixabay

 

“The children have to help the companion character in (a) difficult situation. So they have to give them the advice to solve these situations that are common,” Durán said.

‘A kid’s Alexa’

On the other side of the convention center, Karen Hu was demonstrating the workings of an educational robot called Woobo.

“You can think of this as a kid’s Alexa,” said Hu, Woobo’s strategic partnerships and business development manager. “We have a lot of expressions that are built into it.”

Hu posted a question to the furry green Woobo, “Hi, what’s your name?”

It responded in a childlike voice with, “Are you trying to trick me? My name is Woobo.”

Woobo comes programmed with educational games and activities that children can access via its touchscreen face. Toys that function as companions also aid in social development. Hu described how Woobo can help an autistic child.

“He can communicate with Woobo and he can follow some of the instructions Woobo is giving,” said Hu, noting that kids see Woobo more as a companion than a parent or authority figure “telling him to do certain things.”

Stress-relieving animals

A more low-tech companion is Manimo, toy animals weighing 2.2 to 5.5 pounds that can help with hyperactivity and concentration. Whether it’s a snake, salamander, dolphin or frog, Manimos can be draped across a child’s arm, chest or neck.

Like the use of weighted blankets or vests in occupational therapy, Manimos alleviate anxiety and stress and can be particularly helpful to kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or those on the autism spectrum.

Karine Gagner, president and founder of Manimo, explained that applying deep pressure to one’s body can help calm kids before bedtime, while simultaneously increasing their concentration and focus.

“It works very well at school, you can use it on your lap or you can put it over your shoulder or just hold it in your arm,” Gagner said.

ALSO READ: Toy makers urge the government to help promote indigenous products

Social intelligence

At the EQtainment booth, sales director Jonathan Erickson was explaining the company’s toy lineup: “The purpose of all of our products is to develop emotional and social intelligence in kids — so that’s impulse control, manners, any skill sets relating with other people.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a genius when it comes to IQ, you still need to be able to relate to the world around you,” Erickson said.

Erickson was displaying a board game called “Q’s Race to the Top,” in which players try to advance a monkey named “Q” to the top of his treehouse while engaging in an interactive mix of physical activity and conversational prompts. Kevin Chaja, EQtainment’s CTO, says 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?’” Chaja said.

Whether a board game can ultimately improve a child’s emotional intelligence remains to be seen, but in parents’ ongoing quest to raise well-rounded children, toymakers are making sure to cover all their bases.

Next Story

Social Media Giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg Rejects The Claim ‘Time To Break Up Facebook’

Hughes maintains that lawmakers merely marvel at Facebook's explosive growth and have overlooked their own responsibility to protect the public through more competition.

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In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Thursday, Hughes said the government must hold Mark (Zuckerberg) accountable. VOA

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rejected the call for breaking up his company, saying the size of Facebook was actually a benefit to its users and for the security of the democratic process.

In an interview with French broadcaster France 2, Zuckerberg dismissed the claim made by his long-time friend and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes that it is time to break up Facebook as Zuckerberg has yielded “unchecked power and influence” far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in the government.

“When I read what he wrote, my main reaction was that what he’s proposing that we do isn’t going to do anything to help solve those issues.

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The Facebook case is being looked at as a measure of the Donald Trump administration’s willingness to regulate US tech companies. VOA

“So I think that if what you care about is democracy and elections, then you want a company like us to be able to invest billions of dollars per year like we are in building up really advanced tools to fight election interference,” Zuckerberg told France 2 while in Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Thursday, Hughes said the government must hold Mark (Zuckerberg) accountable.

“Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive,” wrote Hughes, who during his freshman year at Harvard University in 2002 was recruited by Zuckerberg for Facebook.

Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s budget for safety this year is bigger than the whole revenue of the company when it went public earlier this decade.

“A lot of that is because we’ve been able to build a successful business that can now support that. You know, we invest more in safety than anyone in social media,” reported TechCrunch, quoting Zuckerberg.

Hughes wrote that Zuckerberg has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.

“Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” he wrote.

In a separate opinion piece in the NYT on Sunday, Nick Clegg, who is the Vice President for global affairs and communications in Facebook, said that success should not be penalised.

“Facebook shouldn’t be broken up but it does need to be held to account,” Clegg wrote.

“Hughes maintains that lawmakers merely marvel at Facebook’s explosive growth and have overlooked their own responsibility to protect the public through more competition.

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Embroiled in users’ data scandals, Facebook is set to create new privacy positions within the company that would include a committee, and external evaluator and a Chief Compliance Officer. Pixabay

“This argument holds dangerous implications for the American technology sector, the strongest pillar of the economy. And it reveals misunderstandings of Facebook and the central purpose of antitrust law,” Clegg argued.

Embroiled in users’ data scandals, Facebook is set to create new privacy positions within the company that would include a committee, and external evaluator and a Chief Compliance Officer.

Also Read: Countries Across Globe Unite For Establishing Legal Laws To Reduce Plastic Polluting Environment
Facebook has already kept aside $3 billion anticipating a record fine coming from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal which involved 87 million users.

The Facebook case is being looked at as a measure of the Donald Trump administration’s willingness to regulate US tech companies. (IANS)