I still have my first teddy bear from when I was an infant. Almost 40 years later, my soft spot for stuffed animals remains (even if I’m constantly picking them up from my kids’ floors). So when the Smart Teddy came along, there was certainly some innate nostalgia that piqued my interest, but the interactive component had my 5-year-old written all over it.
But for $200, I wasn’t sure the seemingly simplistic functions of this bear would be worth the splurge.
Out of the box, Teddy does just look like a regular stuffed animal and has the softness of one, too. I actually think this is the first thing that differentiates between other STEM educational stuffed animals: some can be quite firm with hard plastic features that make them tough to keep in a child’s bed at night. The fact that it immediately doubles as a “lovey” or a “stuffy” is a bonus.
Helping Smart Teddy come to life
Smart Teddy is connected to an app and this setup is a breeze and works like any device pairing. From here, pressing each of the four bear paws activates different features.
To be honest, I didn’t love the idea of having to sync Smart Teddy with an app on my phone. I thought this would limit the bear’s content and require me to constantly be prompting the various stories, songs, poems, etc., but once you set up routines and mark stories and songs as “favorites” within the app, Teddy was ready to interact without needing to constantly visit the app. You don’t have to set up routines or highlight favorites, but without these features, the teddy will repeat most of its content pretty quickly.
Positive modeling of habits and routines
When Teddy encourages you to do something like brush your teeth, eat lunch, or make the bed, it’s like a magical switch is flipped and kids suddenly follow all directions that typically come with a protest or slow feet.
The list of positive habits and routines is pretty extensive. There are reminders for calming down, taking medicine, tidying up, being polite, playing outside, turning off screens, and even talking about a problem. My son asked if Teddy could sing happy birthday to his grandfather and I was delighted to see this feature existed!
Finally, games that don’t require a screen
With my son being at the older end of the recommended ages for this toy, I was hoping there would be more than ABCs and counting. Thankfully, Teddy has games about animals, weird words, safety lessons, emotions, riddles, and even seasonal and holiday fun that changes to fit the time of year.
Creative twists to well-known stories
When I saw story options of Snow White and “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” I was not expecting there to be creative versions of these stories and nursery rhymes. We liked that each day has four different stories or poems it cycles through with new ones coming each week so kiddos are getting new content all the time. Again, there are stories that coordinate with the season and upcoming holidays.
What I don’t love
This is just a parental preference (my son did not mention the aversion at all) but I do wish there were varying voices to choose from. It’s nice that the voice isn’t robotic, but it doesn’t exactly vary its tone or show a whole lot of enthusiasm.
Smart Teddy wins approval
I knew this was a win when my son brought the teddy to his kindergarten class and the teacher sent a photo of Teddy sitting in his own chair at a table with my son and his classmates. When I picked him up from school that day, a kid chased us down and said: “Can I hear one more story from your teddy?”