If you live and breathe the web—as most TechCrunch readers do—you may have noticed that the minute a child enters your life, you tend to start viewing the web differently. It’s almost comical how many Internet entrepreneurs I’ve come by, who as soon as they become parents, grow a new-found desire to create web products for children.
Being a father of two myself, I’ve seen my fair share of web products and sites for children. In my kids’s case, none outrank YouTube. So much so that I set up Posterous sites for my 5.5yo son Cole (here), and my 3yo daughter, Zoe (here), so they can easily scroll through and enjoy their favorite videos.
The main issue I’ve come across is that sites and web products for children are built for age groups that are too far apart. From my experience, a product or site can’t target 1-3 year olds, and 3-5 year olds, at the same time. Again, from experience, that just doesn’t work. That’s why I find what BabyFirst (a cable and satellite channel) is doing with BabyU to be interesting.
Designed specifically for toddlers aged three and younger, BabyU houses a variety of online games and activities. These span some basic developmental building blocks such as music, math, art and vocabulary. Unsurprisingly, child development experts were consulted throughout the design of the activities, which: 1) are meant for parent/child interaction (as opposed to throwing the child in front of the screen to play alone), and 2) typically range between 5-7 minutes in duration, to meet the youngster’s attention span.
If you’ve ever raised a child, you know that a mouse and touchpad are quite intuitive, but do require a certain level of fine motor skills. Most sites and products I’ve seen don’t take this to heart. BabyU has. The activities are all built upon the use of two keys, and two alone: the space bar, and enter/return key. Unless you’ve raised a child this wouldn’t impress you as very important, but it really is—again, I speak from experience.
BabyU is currently only offered in English, but considering BabyFirst broadcasts in a total of six languages such as Spanish, French and Hindi, it’s likely they will be manifested in the web offering as well.
Additional features will be rolled-out in the future, including a child-oriented video chat offering powered by Vikido, whose founder, Amit Knaani, I profiled in a previous post. In fact, it was the team at Vikido that headed BabyU’s product design and development (as a way to supplement Vikido’s funding as an autonomous play).
BabyU is priced at $1.99-3.99/mo, or $19.99 for an annual subscription.