Talking tech since 2003

Life picks up pace after children enter the picture. Parents find themselves juggling more tasks, which usually include the typical routine involving work, childcare, chores and errands. These comprise the majority of our weekdays, aside from the odd hour or two relaxing and watching the latest great series or having a nice family dinner—if that. The silver lining used to be that kids spent most of their days at school. The pandemic changed all that.

COVID-19 took a toll on a large portion of society, ranging from unemployment to medical complications to death. But for those who were more fortunate and managed to stay healthy and hold on to a job, managing family life became more complicated. Schools were, and in many cases still are, closed, leaving children to be cared for at home while some parents had to still work and provide. Kids also tend to demand attention when left unattended or not in school, especially as the younger. When finding ways to keep children occupied, however, it’s also important to keep a focus on and ensure they don’t waste their days away playing games on a tablet. That’s where technology comes in.

Sharon Israeli, a hotelier and entrepreneur, found a new way to bring the kindergarten that was missing from preschoolers’ lives into the home. Her virtual preschool network, called Toffee Pony, allows parents to keep their preschool children busy and still learning while preschools and kindergartens are closed. Toffee Pony uses teleducation technology to have vetted preschool teachers teach classes of up to 30 children at the same time, with a personal instruction option also available. 

Toffee Pony offers a variety of virtual activities for preschoolers to partake in with instructors, including dancing and singing, painting and cooking, traditional primary learning, and exploring virtual outdoor landscapes. Students are connected to each other via a webcam, which connects to the communication interface, similarly to how Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet operate. 

Toffee Pony activities

However, signing up for programs that feature interaction between children and strangers always raise concerns about the dangers of malicious intents. Moreover, companies like Zoom have experienced what’s called “video bombing” and hacking into private conversations. Combined, these flaws can be very worrying to any parent. 

Toffee Pony claims to vet its instructors thoroughly, to ensure they are qualified and, more importantly, do not pose a risk to the children’s well-being. And this vetting is not just limited to the instructors. Israeli’s business model uses KYC mechanisms to ensure that the platform is also not infiltrated by harmful people, perhaps posing as parents or children in order to gain access to the virtual kindergarten network. Users have to provide credit card, address, and other details to gain access to a Toffee Pony video conference, rendering malicious persons unable to enter without these KYC details. 

While the concept appears to fill a need for parents who want to keep their preschool children occupied, it’s not necessarily something new. School boards have already begun addressing the issue of instructing children remotely, so the product is an alternative that costs money for parents. Parents will ultimately have to decide if this kind of program is suitable for their childcare needs and weigh the cost of such a comprehensive program that is highly secure against what public kindergartens can offer.

Nonetheless, the idea is surely something for parents to consider, especially given that preschools remained closed around the world, despite the pandemic slowing down. Like any consideration regarding childcare, parents will have to decide if this kind of program will suit their needs and their kids’ needs. Either way, Toffee Pony will be there waiting, at their service. 

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