SavvySource, an online parenting site that reviews toys, preschools, camps, and books, and lets parents share activity ideas, will on Wednesday launch a creative way to capitalize on the holiday shopping season. In partnership with a non-profit organization that deals with early childhood education, the web site has put together a quiz that helps parents assess and track the development of their child (aged 2 to 6), and receive a personalized list of recommendations for age appropriate educational toys, books, and activities -- all cleverly linked to Amazon via an affiliate code.
The quiz, though simple to complete, is long. Very long (it takes about a half hour). Not having any kids of my own, I know nothing of early childhood development, so to test out the site I enlisted the help of my mom -- who, as it happens, is an expert in just that. We created a fictional child (based loosely on a real one she works with at her job) and took the quiz.
For the most part, though slightly put off by the length, we were impressed by the depth and breadth of the questions it asked. It seemed to ask a lot of the types of things parent should be paying attention to, though it was not without some oddities. There were some duplicate questions (however, the version of the quiz I took was a beta copy, and SavvySource says they are still doing some "minor bug-fixing") and some strange ones. One of the weirdest asked if my child could "identify and describe the ways that the sun, wind, and rain work." I'm a college educated 24-year-old, and I have no problem admitting that I have no idea how the sun works (some sort of nuclear reaction, perhaps? That's as sophisticated as I can get) -- or how wind works for that matter (rain I think I could explain to some degree of accuracy). It's very doubtful that any 2 to 6 year old child could describe how those things operate.
When the quiz is completed, SavvySource compiles a "Progress Portrait" and a "Learning Guide" personalized for your child. The former charts your child's progress in the areas covered by the quiz, and can be updated as your child is able to do new things, while the latter gives personalized toy, book, and activity recommendations.
The recommendations seemed pretty well constructed, and we were impressed by the fact that they included free activity suggestions along with the Amazon-linked toys and books. The downside is that the recommendations are a bit overwhelming -- rather than constructing an overall portrait of your child based on the quiz as a whole and giving a handful of recommendations based on your kid's strongest areas (or those most in need of stimulation), the site gives separate recommendations for each, segmented area of the quiz. The result is an exceptionally long list of product suggestions that feels less personalized than it should be after 30 minutes put into answering quiz questions.
One nice touch about the Learning Guide, though, that ties in your quiz answers, is that each recommendation comes with a description of which skills that product helps develop and shows you how your child ranked in those skill areas based on your answers. The site also provides a utility for culling the list into a single "Learning Registry," which can then be shared with others (friends, relatives, etc. -- anyone who may want to buy your child a gift).
In the end, SavvySource has come up with a unique and potentially helpful way to make money this holiday season. I give them a lot of credit, as well, for actively promoting educational toys and books for children, which are certainly better than DVDs and video games for developing young minds (and motor skills, social skills, etc.). Including free activity ideas among the product recommendations is a nice touch that makes their service seem less commercially driven and will probably be a hit among parents.
At the very least, if the site doesn't help you find a good holiday gift for your child, the quiz might at least help parents to start thinking about the types of things they should be paying attention to in terms of guaging their child's development and may give them ideas for things to try working on with their kids (for example, sorting shapes by color).