Report – Connected Toy Story

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2016 4:43pm by Gabrielle Smith

This session looked at the current landscape for connected toys, discussing products with their creators and asking questions regarding value, interactivity and digital products of the future


  • The connection between toy space and the future of the physical digital product needs exploring
  • We need to understand why toys are so valuable to the child’s own experiences of education and play


Maurice Wheeler from The Big Little Partnership brought a panel of four experienced creators and consultants together to talk about connected toys and their story. In thinking through the current landscape of connected toys and what is going on in this area, the conversation ranged across ages and play patterns, to the educational and emotional engagement of the digital and physical product.

Lucy Gill, Associate, Fundamentally Children, said her experience has proven to be extremely active in the toy space from ‘The Good Toy Guide’ and ‘The Good App Guide’, where connected toys have been popular in value and a positive influence in play behaviours.

With a flavour for the product, the potential educational value is key. The research speaks for itself, and Lucy highlighted that “an independent play science study showed Tiggly Math improved children’s number skills by up to 71% in 2 weeks.”

Raising the bar for interactive app and connected toys, Alex Wiltshire, Head of Communications, Sensible Object, spoke candidly about the complexities, accessibilities and tactile nature of his digital product ‘Fabulous Beasts.’

Building cute and wooden toys with a tiny heart beat, Matas Petrikas, CEO/ Co-Founder, Vai Kai challenges the often reinforced perception of character with his toy. When children get to a certain age, they become social. He commented that “imaginative play is strong with the non-tech doll, but with the option of interactivity, the child’s nurturing activity becomes strong”.

Devised and created in 2013, Osmo, made by  Tangible Play, is a brand that understands how prevalent tablets are in children’s play and how to harness this social interaction in a tangible way beyond the screen, said Paul McCafferty. In helping teach children creatively, over 15% of registered users on Osmo are teachers and educators, used in over 7,500 schools in 42 countries.

With the ever-expanding retail market of connected toys, the ultimate question ‘are we driving children towards the screen?’ is on everyone’s mind. Is there a way to bring play back into the physical world? So, the main issue with connected toys? Where do they live in your home and toy box? Longevity is key. Children’s interaction with the ‘artefacts’ or pieces, needs to sustain their interest no matter what.

Whatever the answer, there is one thing today’s panel all agreed on…  screens are here to stay.

CMC Ebulletin Event Reports Alex Wiltshire CMC CMC 2016 Connected Toy Story CMC2016 Connected Toys Fabulous Beasts fundamentally children Lucy Gill Mathas Petrikas Osmo Tiggly Math toy toys Vai Kai

Gabrielle Smith

About the author

Gabrielle Smith

Northumbria University, Ph.D Student

Gabrielle Smith is a second year Ph.D candidate at Northumbria University, Newcastle and is a Film and Television graduate from the universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow. Her current research explores the role of the British children’s television presenter. Additionally, Gaby’s passion for working with children and young adults has been… Read more