Fisher-Price’s new Think & Learn Smart Cycle
Introduced in January, Fisher-Price’s new Think & Learn Smart Cycle is now reaching the market as an interactive learning platform for preschoolers.
The immobile cycle employs a Bluetooth connection permitting play on a tablet or TV, with four learning apps for download providing educational content focusing on literacy, STEM exposure, math skills, and science and social studies—with more such apps slated for next year.
The app content synchs to the child’s speed of pedaling, such that children control game play pace; the app can also save game play so they can pick up where they left off, and provides a dashboard for parents to measure their child’s learning progress.
The new Think & Learn Smart Cycle updates with contemporary technology the original “plug and play” video cartridge-driven toy that was introduced in 2007.
“It was a wildly successful, ‘aspirational’ item,” says Julia Maher, Fisher-Price’s senior manager of global marketing.
“It was for three-year-olds who didn’t know how to ride a bike, and gave them great learning content. With this version especially, you have to be on the bike to play with the app: The more you pedal, the more you learn.”
So while it’s not a youngster’s exercise bike, Smart Cycle definitely resembles one, and is in fact designed to burn off preschoolers’ abundant energy while exploiting their fascination with technology and eagerness to learn—all the while keeping them physically active.
“It’s an immersive experience,” continues Maher. “You can’t play the app without pedaling the bike and unlocking the content.”
Maher notes that much of kids play today is imitative.
“They see their parents on an exercise bike at home or at the gym,” she explains. “The Smart Cycle is all about active play, and the pedaling motion empowers them and gives them confidence. We all take it for granted, but we had to learn it once, too, and in testing with kids as young as three—many pedaling for the first time—we found that they gain a sense of accomplishment and achievement when they pedal through something that’s happening on the screen. So it’s an empowering moment for a child.”
According to Fisher-Price survey findings, parents of preschoolers say their kids spend 21 percent of their playtime engaging with electronic devices and 19 hours a week watching TV/video content. The Smart Cycle companion apps, then, focus on skills they’ll need heading into kindergarten and include letters/phonics games like Alphaballoons, which prompts kids to find the starting letter of items they see on screen; spelling/vocabulary games like Drone Zoom, which has kids flying a drone in collecting syllables and spelling words; and reading/rhyming games like Match-A-Word, where they pedal and steer in sorting and categorizing rhyming words.
Another game, Smart Cycle Mission to Tech City, offers 15 levels of racing and learning play and automatically adjusts content according to learning progress—which increases according to pedaling speed. Additional Smart Cycle apps feature characters from popular Nickelodeon shows and include Smart Cycle Shimmer and Shine, which teaches early math concepts; Smart Cycle Blaze & the Monster Machines, which offers a STEM exploration curriculum; and Smart Cycle SpongeBob SquarePants, which emphasizes critical thinking skills.
“We understand how parents struggle with the pervasiveness today of tablets and the tons of apps, and that they don’t want their kids to have too much screen time,” says Maher. “But we brought that into our research and feel like it’s guilt-free screen time, since they have to be active and not just sit on the couch—and these apps offer a robust learning experience with their curriculum.”
And Maher notes that the technology for the second major iteration of the Think & Learn Smart Cycle is already in consumer homes.
“You don’t have to buy a new system or tablet, and it works on multiple TV and tablet platforms,” she says. “Parents are raising tech-savvy kids and know that technology will be important. Smart Cycle strikes the right balance and hits the sweet spot.”