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Kind + Jugend wants to know … trends in the early childhood education – An interview with Toby Mather from Lingumi

The early childhood education is one important topic at Kind + Jugend trade fair every year. We spoke to Toby Mather, co-founder of Lingumi, a pre-school language learning method that teaches children a language using an academic methodology.  

Toby Mather is the co-founder of Lingumi, a connected toy that teaches children a language using an academic methodology

1. What are the trends / developments in the early childhood education?

Learning is definitely a big trend. Old-style plastic toys are going out, and being replaced with carefully designed products from smaller brands. Digital is also on the up. Parents are learning that digital can play a role in a healthy lifestyle for a child, just like videos can. Companies like Fox & Sheep make beautiful bedtime apps, while at Lingumi we make Club Lingumi, an app that families use together to begin playfully learning English. Finally, STEM is a big trend now, for example toys that teach the ideas behind coding.

2. Which role does media competency / new media play in early childhood education? What are the chances of technological developments?

The use of media is certainly changing. Parents were scared of it before, but now many more are understanding it can be a powerful way to experience something with your child. The best apps have limits and education built-in, for example the Lingumi app has a limit of one new lesson of 10-15 minutes each day. Children will certainly have access to devices and screens from a very young age. Instead of blocking them, it’s best to learn how to give them the best experiences, which are educational, safe, and just a small part of a broad, healthy lifestyle.

3. How can pedagogically or educationally valuable toys support the early childhood education?

The brain is so powerful in early childhood. A 2-4 year old has twice as many synapses as an adult (the decline begins from around 6). In that period before school, children can activate pathways in their brains that bring them many skills later, from language skills, to concentration skills, to creative skills. Well designed toys, apps, and videos with a strong educational background are a good way for a parent and child to unlock this amazing brain power together. The best toys and apps involve the parents or siblings, rather than being simply a way to distract a child, like many cartoons are.

4. Which educational toys are currently on the market? How should they be used to support other measures?

There is a new generation of high-quality educational toys from small startups. On the expensive end, Cubetto is a wooden robot made by a startup in London, and teaches the basic ideas behind coding for children as young as 3. For older children, the London startup ‘Technology Will Save Us’ makes beautiful interactive kits to teach STEM skills. For pre-school children, Lingumi produces an app, and a toy, called Lingumi Play, which uses soft, colourful cubes in an interactive way to teach children English as a second language.

5. How can the industry, in your view, help parents or educators to teach the right learning methods?

That’s an important question. The most important thing for the industry is to be transparent about our intentions. Some apps, toys, and videos are designed to distract children, so their parents can have a cup of tea. In small quantities, that’s fine – distraction can be useful. But these big industry giants should stop pretending this low-quality content is educational, because it creates a bad reputation. On the other end, those companies in the industry who take education, efficacy, and research seriously need to be given more exposure! At Lingumi we do extensive research, use academic partners, and carefully design the experiences in our products to be educational as well as playful, but it’s hard to explain all of that to parents. If there was a state body, or an independent industry group, that could certify this commitment to education and quality of research, that would certainly help.





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