SECTOR GUIDE: E-learning

Kids' tablets were among the top-selling toys of last year. Dominic Sacco rounds up the latest hot products in the electronic learning sector, including several newcomers...
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LEAPFROG01895 202840

The £79.99 LeapPad Explorer is a top-selling tablet device designed especially for children aged between four and nine years old.

It comes with a built-in camera and video recorder, accelerometer and five-inch colour touch screen. Following the product’s success in the Toy Retailers Association’s Dream Dozen, LeapFrog will be continuing to develop the LeapPad Explorer’s range of software, games, apps and accessories. These are available from the company’s online App Centre store.

Plus, the LeapPad Explorer was one of the best-selling toy products last year, according to the NPD Group.

Then there’s the lower-priced Leapster Explorer, a £59.99 device which promises a personalised learning experience tailored to each child. It’s targeted at kids aged between four and eight years old.

Consumers can also purchase a £14.99 click-in camera and video accessory. This allows users to take pictures, record video footage and edit their content while learning reading, maths, science skills and more at the same time.

The Leapster Explorer also boasts auto-level gameplay, as well as Flash and 3D graphics. Children can even play online. There are several licensed cartridge games available and over 100 apps to download from the aforementioned LeapFrog App Centre.

VTECH 01235 555545

VTech is launching two brand new products which it hopes will dominate electronic learning sales this year – the InnoTab 2 and the MobiGo 2.

The InnoTab 2 is the successor to 2011’s award-winning InnoTab. This was the top-selling toy for December 2011 and the leading electronic toy between January 2012 and April 2012, according to the NPD Group.

The new product – aimed at children between four and nine years old – boasts a built-in microphone and a 1.3 mega pixel camera with a rotating ‘self-portrait’ lens. This allows children to put themselves in the frame. Kids can take pictures, use the editing suite to add special effects and upload their photos into games.

VTech is also launching new software cartridges that come with one animated e-book, three learning games and two creative activities, with extra mini apps available to download.

The other product VTech is pushing is the MobiGo 2, the follow-up to its successful touch learning system. This helps children to learn curriculum-based school skills like English and maths, as well as colours and shapes. It also has e-books, drawing activities and a picture viewer.

The MobiGo 2 has a touch sensitive ‘finger touch’ screen, a motion sensor that allows kids to shake, tilt or turn the unit to complete tasks, a microphone, slide-up screen, QWERTY keyboard and four-directional cursor for playing games. 

It’s for kids aged between three and eight years old, and comes with a Cars 2 cartridge. Alternatively, a pink edition is available which is bundled with a Hello Kitty cartridge.

MATTEL01628 500000

Toy giant Mattel is targeting babies over six months old with its Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn collection.

The range aims to teach babies about numbers, colours, greetings, first words, and more, in a fun way using lights, sounds and music as rewards.

Product highlights include the Click n’ Learn Remote – a realistically-styled remote where baby is the controller – and the Apptivity Case. 

The latter is a durable case with chunky handles, so techno tots can play with their very own apps without dribbling onto mum’s iPhone. This autumn also marks the arrival of the Apptivity Case for iPad.

There’s also the Laugh & Learn Puppy available. A host of toys feature the puppy character which helps babies play, learn and grow. Products include the original plush Love to Play Puppy, Puppy’s Piano and Puppy’s Learning Car.

And from this August the new Laugh & Learn Dance n’ Play Puppy will hit toy shelves. This encourages infants to move, dance and sing as the puppy claps, wiggles and raises his ears along to 25 songs and phrases.

Mattel says it will kick off experiential, word-of-mouth and digital marketing activity to support the range this autumn and winter. Plus, it promises a heavyweight TV ad campaign in the run up to Christmas.

OREGON SCIENTIFIC 01628 580154

Meep is a wi-fi enabled tablet for kids over six years old that comes with 50 pre-loaded games, apps, e-books and music tracks.

It’s fuelled by Google’s powerful Android 4.0 platform and boasts a seven-inch Z-Force touch-screen, as well as durable silicone sleeves. 

Oregon Scientific says the whole user interface has been especially developed for children.

Extra accessories for Meep include a joystick, steering wheel, portable piano, drum pad, headphones set, microphone and Game-Pro case for multiplayer action. 

Parents don’t need to worry how their child uses Meep, either. The device has a parental control system that lets parents regulate how their children access the internet and YouTube. They can also control how their kids respond to friend requests and how much money can be spent using the online App Store.

Oregon Scientific is backing Meep with a nationwide marketing campaign later this year including ‘significant investment’ in TV advertising, as well as social media activity, a PR campaign and heavy online presence.

Meep will be priced at £129.99 and will hit shelves this September.

LITTLE TIKES 01908 268480

The new iTikes line consists of four interactive products: the Canvas, Piano, Map and Microscope. Each one works fine as a standalone toy, but really comes alive when linked to an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Using the free iTikes App download, kids can experience additional learning and gameplay.

The iTikes digital Canvas works like a classic doodler with a stylus and shape buttons for stamping. When used with the iPad app, the stylus produces music, lights and sound effects, and allows colourful designs to be drawn in six different artist materials.

The iTikes Piano can be played alone but when it connects to a compatible iOS device, children can actually learn to play the keyboard, take part in games, record and play back their own music.

On its own, the iTikes Map allows a child to explore the world through six distinct maps. However, when it’s used with an iPhone or iPod Touch, kids can take part in interactive learning quizzes and games. The tethered stylus also activates facts and interacts in 3D.

Finally, the iTikes Microscope allows children to use a lens-based microscope to explore, examine and interact with 36 real specimens. iOS devices add animated 3D models to the mix.

ARCHOS 02380 839259

The ChildPad is a seven-inch tablet made for kids which uses the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich platform.

It comes with a pre-installed cartoon, Big Buck Bunny, as well as Angry Birds and a host of pre-loaded educational and general knowledge apps. Plus, it uses a 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM that ensures a smooth interface and multitasking capabilities. 

There’s a wi-fi connection that allows users to surf the web and receive emails, and parental controls for safe and secure internet browsing. The latter parental control application is pre-loaded for six months and is provided by Editions Profil, whose ‘Mobile Parental Filter’ is ranked as the most efficient parental control in worldwide benchmarks.

Special coloured icons and folders have been designed to be as child-friendly as possible, while the AppsLib market contains apps across 14 categories which have been selected especially for kids.

The ChildPad comes with 4GB of Flash memory which has enough room to store five movies, 40,000 photos or 2,000 music tracks. And there’s no need to convert data files.

Additional accessories are available including a neoprene case and a silicon case. Other features include a built-in speaker, microphone, G-sensor and front camera.

JOHN CRANE 01604 774949

The John Crane B product range is a departure from the firm’s traditional wooden toys.

The Symphony in B electronic toy which has 13 different instruments located at the back and 15 separate songs.

Children can choose up to six of the instruments and place them in the orchestra pit to hear them play together. This mix-and-match game – with a cost price of £40 – also has lights to help teach kids about the different sections that the instruments belong to, such as woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard or strings.

The 13 instruments are as follows: clarinet, flute, tuba, trumpet, xylophone, drums, cymbals, piano, accordion, koto, guitar, violin and sitar. The Symphony in B product even has a feature that allows children to record and play back their own music. A book is also included which contains teacher’s notes, different composers and lyrics. The product is also environmentally friendly as it’s lead-free, phthalate-free and BPA-free.

It’s never been quite so fun – or educational – for a child to learn to compose their own symphony.

TOMY 020 8722 7300

Tomy continues to commit to helping pre-school children learn as they play with the Mr Colour Maker, from the popular Play to Learn range.

The company says Play to Learn offers ‘simply brilliant developmental play’ through age-appropriate interactive toys that are designed to develop a baby’s core skills. 

The strong-selling Mr Colour Maker continues to entertain and amaze children aged two to five years-old with its mess-free electronic colour mixing play pattern.

A new lower price point makes this a great toy for tots. Mr Colour Maker is the first product of its kind to teach little ones all about colours in an engaging way through innovative light technology. 

As both Mr Colour Maker and his ‘paint pots’ are fully electronic, there’s no messy paint involved. Users simply hold one of the three primary colour pots over Mr Colour Maker and watch as the mixing pot magically lights up with the colour. There are more than 50 sayings and three separate modes – ‘You Decide’, ‘Follow Me’ and ‘Sing-the-Rainbow’.

Tomy will once again be supporting Mr Colour Maker with a TV advertising campaign and strong sales are predicted throughout 2012.

INSPIRATIONWORKS 0870 898 8923

InspirationWorks is launching the Kurio 7 (pictured) in July, which it is billing as ‘the ultimate Android tablet for families’. It was also awarded Best of Show by Gadget Show Live at the London Toy Fair.

The Kurio is a gaming, multimedia and entertainment device, but also doubles up as a learning tool, with users able to download all manner of Android apps online. It comes pre-loaded with a selection of apps, too, including e-books, Alligator Creative Play Apps, videos and games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.

It boasts a seven-inch touch screen and custom accessories. For example, kids can spruce the Kurio up with licensed cases and skins featuring Peppa Pig, Bin Weevils and more. 

InspirationWorks also says the Kurio can be used by the whole family, including adults. Accessories can transform the Kurio into a more sophisticated-looking tablet ideal for office desks and business meetings. 

Other InspirationWorks products include a new pre-school tablet range, which includes a National Geographic Space Tablet, DS Superfriends’ Superhero Power Tablet, as well as Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder Fun & Learn Tablets. These will be available from this autumn for £19.99 each. 

The National Geographic Space Tablet is an ideal educational tool as it helps children learn about planets, stars and space exploration.

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