Tire your kids out and teach them with Fisher-Price's new gadget

Fisher-Price's Smart Cycle teaches pre-schoolers -- and tires them out.

David Priest Former editor
David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who formerly covered home security for CNET.
David Priest
2 min read

The little balls of energy we call preschoolers spend most days wearing themselves and their parents out. Especially today, when so many parents work full- or part-time, knowing how to give young children attention, instruction, and just basic necessities like food and medical attention can be overwhelming.

Enter Fisher-Price's newest device: the Fisher-Price Think and Learn Smart Cycle. The Smart Cycle aims to give kids an outlet for that extra energy -- but also instruction for their expanding intellects. At $150 (converts to roughly AU$200, ‎£120), the Cycle will connect via Bluetooth to tablets or TVs , and offer learning apps that focus on math, science, STEM, literacy, and social studies.

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While I don't love the idea of adding another reason to stare at screens in the homes of today's children, Fisher-Price's device looks interesting. It certainly could supplement the time beleaguered parents are already logging everyday, offering an alternative to TV programs that fail to teach or get kids moving.

The Smart Cycle also offers cool ways for parents to track their child's progress through the learning courses. A Bluetooth-connected app allows monitoring over time.

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My concerns about the Smart Cycle as a parent are twofold: Practically, whether children actually decide to spend time on a stationary bicycle depends heavily on whether the course offerings are engaging. Fisher-Price promises more courses in the coming years, but I wouldn't want to shell out $150 without some evidence of the bike's effectiveness with my own child.

My second concern is more philosophical. I just don't know how helpful early learning is if it doesn't depend on human interaction. The development of foundational critical thinking skills seems especially unlikely if the child has no way to engage the material beyond the strictures laid out by the device. Before I would buy a device like the Smart Cycle, I'd like to see clear empirical evidence from Fisher-Price in support of both learning from a non-human device and from learning while cycling.

At this time, Fisher-Price couldn't offer me that data. So while the Smart Cycle seems compelling in concept, I'd wait to drop $150 until I saw real numbers that support its use.