Bookinou | Source: Pimely Sas

From remote learning to virtual events, some of the biggest advancements to come out of the past year have been the major innovations in technology. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) took the opportunity to shine, hosting the first fully digital Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from Jan. 11-14. Usually held in person in Las Vegas, the world’s largest trade show for technology and innovation evolved with the times to virtually connect exhibitors, consumers, tech gurus, celebrities, and media from around the world.

Toys are pushing the boundaries of innovation and several manufacturers made themselves known with product showcases on the digital CES show floor. There may be an onset of new digital and tech toys like flashy STEM robots and futuristic machine-building kits, but that doesn’t mean the demand for traditional toys has dissipated. Many manufacturers at this year’s show took classic toys, such as board games and globes, and gave them a boost with tech updates to make traditional play more cutting edge.

Board games have skyrocketed in popularity last year, lending families a lifeline during pandemic lockdowns to keep kids busy and entertained. Tacto is a line of board games from Playshifu that blends digital gameplay with real game pieces. Each set includes two frames that users can place on the sides of a tablet (not included) to turn their device into a gameboard. Players select a game in the Tacto app and then use the tangible game pieces or figurines to play the game on the screen. There are multiplayer strategy games and chess, as well as single-player coding and laser obstacle games. The gameplay becomes multidimensional as the content changes and interacts with players, but still feels like a traditional board game as opposed to a video game because of the tangible pieces.

Biino | Source: Little Lot

Biino from Little Lot has a similar concept, featuring colorful, pillowy fabric shapes that kids can place into slots on a wooden platform to play corresponding games on a tablet. It has all the charm of a traditional wooden toy with the added digital element. Kids aren’t just placing shapes into slots — they are moving through different stories and adventures. Players can also opt to go screen-free by following the LED lights and sound effects without the tablet.

As more families make the move to remote learning and homeschooling during the pandemic, classroom staples and long-established educational toys are getting a modern reboot as well. Playshifu’s Orboot takes something as simple as a globe and adds augmented reality to help kids travel through space and time. There are three globes — Earth, a dinosaur-ridden Earth, and Mars — that users can view through a tablet or smartphone to access interactive features, trivia, quizzes, scavenger hunts, and more. Manufacturers can add even more educational value to toys with a touch of tech.

Related: CES Prepares to Go Digital for 2021 Event

Bookinou from Pimely Sas is a new kind of reading tool for kids. This screen-free storyteller device is so much more than an audio book player: It reads books to kids in the recorded voice of a loved one, which personalizes the learning-to-read experience. Parents and grandparents can record any book of their choosing using the mobile app, then connect their story to a physical sticker to place on the book. Bookinou will recognize the sticker and play the story while kids learn to read along. The product is timely as well, giving friends and relatives a bonding experience through storytime when they might not be able to get together in person.

Companies will continue to hook kids in with elaborate devices, but sometimes all they need is a balanced mix of tech and tradition. Toys can still push the boundaries of innovation even while remaining down-to-earth.

This article was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!

About the author

Jackie Cucco

Jackie Cucco

Jackie Cucco was a Senior Editor of The Toy Book, The Toy Insider, and The Pop Insider. She covered toy trends, pop culture, and entertainment news, and made appearances on national and regional outlets, including CBS, WPIX, News 12, and more. Jackie spends her time watching horror movies and working her way through every Stephen King novel out there.