Popular Science

Don’t trust Monopoly dice to fight fair


When my son was 6 months old, he had a toy that always caught my attention: When you pressed a button, a purple cow would pop out, music would play, and lights would flash. It mesmerized him, but I wasn’t sure the flare was nurturing his brain developmen­t.

To clear up this mystery, my business partner and I reached out to psychologi­sts to figure out what kids’ rapidly maturing noggins crave. We found that starting around 9 months, babies have the fine motor skills to voluntaril­y grasp and release. At this age they’ve also started to understand the concept of “in” versus “out”—the idea that objects can be contained inside others. This is why they love to pull tissues out of a box one after another until the container is empty. Once they reach toddlerhoo­d, kiddos become obsessed with water pouring, as that involves many layers of learning: how the liquid feels when it spills, what it looks like as it moves from one cup to another, and the sounds of splashing.

We then created toys that incorporat­e these activities, like a pitcher and a box stuffed with tissue-like pieces of cloth. Our games don’t just pile innovation on top of innovation or simply make noise; we strip things back to the foundation­s of what little minds really need.

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