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Plugged In

Toy makers hope you’ll hand your iPad to your toddler

Plugged In

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Tiggly (Credit: Tiggly)

Ask any parent: successful as iPhones and iPads are with adults, they’re even more of a hit with the kids.

You’ve only got to look at the bombastic success of the once-humble Angry Birds -- now the kind of transmedia powerhouse that makes licensing execs dance in the streets -- to see the effect of that appeal.

Still, it’s one thing to give your precious iPad to a kid of seven or eight. Would you pause for thought before putting it into the chocolate-smeared clutches of a two- or three-year-old?

A slew of innovative tech-toy specialists are betting you won’t, and the halls of this year’s New York Toy Fair were crammed with products aimed at making toddler tablet time a safe and educational experience.

Startup Tiggly has designed a range of brightly colored plastic shapes intended to be put directly on the screen of an iPad. Soft pads embedded into the toys enable the iPad to differentiate between them and tell where they’re placed on its screen.

“The shapes are designed for 18-month-olds to three-year-olds, they won’t scratch the screen, and you don’t even have to be touching the shape for it to register,” Tiggly founder Phil Georgiou said, throwing a few shapes onto a handy iPad in a careless way that’d make anal-retentive Apple fans cringe. But soft pads on the underside of the shapes cushion their slide, and Georgiou’s iPad didn’t seem to be any the worse for its encounter. Four shapes and three apps will cost parents $29.99 when the product appears in stores in August.

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iDiscover App Activity Table (Credit: VTech)

Longtime tech favorite VTech usually favors its own line of portable devices, and while those certainly aren’t going anywhere, this year the company is also embracing the iPad in the form of the iDiscover App Activity Table, a creative twist on a toddler play classic.

Surrounded by the usual array of spinners, colored lights, and grinning cartoon characters, an iPad sits in the middle of the table, safely protected by a plastic shield. An app running on the tablet interfaces with the table, making sounds and displaying images that liven up its play. It’ll retail at $44.99 and show up in stores this fall.

But the prize for 2013’s most innovative toddler-focused tech toy goes to CTA Digital, who’ve come up with a iPad idea that’s simultaneously the best and most horrible new product we’ve seen in ages.

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iPad potty (Credit: CTA Digital)

It’s a potty. Specifically, it’s a potty that boast an integral iPad mount that sets the tablet right at the toddler’s eye level. The trainee can sit down, fire up one of the many App Store potty training apps, and wait for the whole affair to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Due out in March at $39.99, it’s lining up to be a strong seller, according to CTA’s Lois Eiler.

“People either love it, or they don’t. There’s a clear split,” she said. “From many parents and grandparents who stop by, or send in emails, we get comments like. ‘Oh my gosh, that’s the solution we’ve been looking for,’ or ‘Wow, what a creative idea.’ It’s not going to be every family’s solution, but there are many families out there who will find it useful.”

As for the hygiene issue, it’s all-plastic, easy to clean, and a snap-on plastic cover protects the tablet’s screen from any, uh, fingermarks. Besides, it’s not like you don’t already take your iPad into the bathroom with you, right? Next thing you’ll be wondering if there’s an equivalent product for adults. And of course, there is: a tasteful chromed number with an integrated toilet-tissue dispenser.

If that’s not enough to have you cringing every time you pick up someone else’s tablet, we don’t know what is.

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