About the Applicant
Tiggly / Kidtellect Inc.
At Tiggly, we design toys that interact with learning apps because we believe there is a powerful learning opportunity in the combination of physical and digital play. Our debut product, Tiggly Shapes, is a set of four basic geometric shapes that are designed to help children learn about their shapes and develop their fine motor skills while interacting with our learning apps such as Tiggly Safari. Each of the apps has specific learning objectives. Tiggly Safari is designed to help children learn to recognize 2D shapes in different orientations, develop their hand and eye coordination, learn about animals and their names, and inspire their imagination by combining basic shapes to create complex images of animals.
The importance of physical play
Seventy years of research on children’s development -- from 20th century education and psychology revolutionaries like Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget to today’s cognitive scientists -- tells us that physical play is extremely important for children’s development. What’s obvious is that playing with objects aids the development of fine motor skills and improves hand-eye coordination. What’s less obvious is that physical play also helps cognition and memory.
Holding an object in hand stabilizes a child’s head and focuses his attention while he visually and manually explores the object. Have you ever noticed that a 2-year-old constantly looks all around, moving his head in all directions? But as soon as he’s engaged with a toy, all his attention is focused on that toy. Attention to objects is an important step in developing language skills, because when children focus on something, there is a better chance for them to learn its name and develop their language skills. But it’s not just about learning names — it’s about learning a whole lot about the world. Attending to objects, visually and manually exploring them, acting on them, and inspecting the results of actions are the basis of all learning.
What’s important in learning is to engage all our senses. Take a circle as an example. When a child looks at a circle on a screen, she can only see the shape. But when she grabs and holds a circular toy, she also touches and feels the roundness of it. She notices that she can roll her round toy but not her triangular one. She discovers that the circle looks the same when she spins it, but her triangle looks different as she rotates it. Manual interaction with physical blocks helps her understand that not only do a circle and triangle look different, but they also have different properties and can be manipulated in different ways. It’s an early “aha moment”: “So that’s why wheels are round and not triangular!”
The importance of digital play
As great as blocks are, they can never speak to children. Children can play with a block for hours and hours, explore it in all directions, and manipulate it in many ways, but they may never know the name of its shape. It may take even longer for them to realize if they put together two triangles they can make a square, or that they can draw a cow with two squares! That’s where Tiggly’s educator-designed apps come in.
In our digital world, the sky is the only limit for imagination. Guided by a narrator, a child can stamp stars and circles under the ocean to discover a seahorse or a dolphin. She can put together a circle and two squares to draw a friendly elephant in the jungle. The triangle on the screen may greet her with “I’m a triangle!” in eight languages.
Well-designed apps also support learning and engagement by providing proper feedback and scaffolding exactly when the child needs them. Another advantage of digital software is that it can become more and more challenging as the child progresses, keeping the child highly engaged and in a state of “flow.”
And that’s why we think there is an extraordinary educational opportunity at the intersection of physical and digital play. Children get all the benefits of interacting with real objects while their imagination is stimulated in a digital context. They receive appropriate guidance in their learning and are given new challenges as their understanding advances. In this way, Tiggly is reimagining play— by bridging the gap between established educational standards and the new digital frontier.
Tiggly Shapes interacting with Tiggly Safari app
Tiggly Shapes, named as one of 14 toys that make children smarter by TIME magazine, is the first realization of our vision.
Tiggly Shapes is a set of 4 elegantly designed geometric shapes (square, circle, triangle, star) that are designed to interact with learning apps on tablets, such as Tiggly Safari. Tiggly Shapes are made out of high-quality, nontoxic materials and are well-designed to suit toddlers: visually appealing, soft to the touch, and a weight that’s just right. Soft silicone sensors on the bottom of the shapes ensure they won’t scratch the tablet screen.
Tiggly Safari is designed to capture the sense of wonder that the animal kingdom holds for children. Inspired by the artwork of Charley Harper and Ed Emberley, we created a farm, a jungle, and an ocean full of animals – all made from simple shapes put together by children in the world of Tiggly!
In Tiggly Safari, children use Tiggly Shapes to construct a series of fun and friendly animals on the farm, in the jungle, and under the ocean. We designed each level in the game based on what we know about children’s spatial cognition development. In the first level, children simply match shapes with what they see on the screen and create simple animals out of single shapes. As the levels progress, children are challenged to create increasingly complex animals with combinations of shapes. They learn to recognize and match basic shapes in various orientations and practice their hand-eye coordination by catching moving objects— all while being enthralled by the cute animals of their creation.
We are big believers in parental involvement with their children’s play and education. In the parent section of the app, we provide many tips and suggested activities for parents to help enhance their children’s learning both inside and outside of the app. The app’s interface is designed to accommodate both parents and young children. When children open the app, all they need to do is to tap on the play button and they have entered the game. All the other sliders and options are hidden behind the parental gate (which requires a specific gesture to enter), ensuring that children do not accidentally find themselves in the parts of the app that are designed for adults.
Tiggly Safari comes in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, German, Portuguese, and Russian. We want to make it possible for children around the globe to enjoy playing the app in their native language, and also begin to learn new languages.
We have playtested Tiggly Shapes with more than 100 two- to five-year-old children. Throughout these sessions we have learned that children really enjoy playing with the shapes and that they keep coming back to the game. We have also learned that Tiggly Shapes are great for sharing and co-play on the iPad. In many sessions we have two children play together, each holding two of the shapes and waiting for their turn to place their shapes on the screen. At Tiggly, we highly value the benefits of co-play for children's cognitive and social development and we are happy that our products are easy to share and play in groups.
Another finding was that children enjoy guessing what animal they are making by listening to the animal’s sounds and by trying to imagine the animal from the incomplete combination of the shapes. Also, children often repeat the names of shapes and animals after the narrator, which is great for learning new vocabulary words. The narrator in the app is Jennifer Barnhart, a featured performer in the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q. Children warmly respond to her playful, expressive tone and they like to repeat after her. We have even playtested the app with children who rarely speak but even they will repeat her narration. Finally, by playing the app frequently, children get better and better in recognizing and matching their shapes; they tend to make fewer mistakes and also get faster in their recognition.