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Phoneme Animal, a toy for a babbling infant to play with

An infant gets a lot of responsive stimulation from its parents. It can also get non-responsive stimulation from its toys. Why not a responsive toy? Part of the problem in designing such a toy is that an infant can't do much. An infant has some motor skills, but these are hard to direct to a toy. An infant can make sounds, but not speech.

The Phoneme Animal is a toy that an infant can meaningfully play with. The Phoneme Animal is able to analyze the sounds an infant makes, produce similar sounds itself, and produce animated images. Here is the kind of progression that might get an infant into a "dialogue" with the Phoneme Animal:

  • The Phoneme Animal would occasionally make some noises.
  • The Phoneme Animal would echo some of the infant's babblings.
  • The Phoneme Animal's echo of the infants babble could be varied (for example, in a repeating echo that slowly varied).
  • When the infant happened to echo a sound made by the Phoneme Animal, the Phoneme Animal would reward the infant with a whoop, or a special animation.
  • The sounds the Phoneme Animal makes would become increasingly complex.
  • The sounds of the Phoneme Animal would be associated with certain shapes, colors, or other images.
  • The images produced by the Phoneme Animal would happen just prior to the correlated sound, allowing the infant to anticipate the sound.
  • The images could function as an iconic language, and serve as a pre-verbal type of reading.

    In this way, the Phoneme Animal would introduce the infant to the correlation between phonemes and iconic representations of those phonemes.