News, reviews & trends for fathers – a contemporary parent’s perspective.
While experts and parents debate and fret about the impact of technology and screen time on the current generation, without a doubt everyone agrees on the importance of play in the lives of kids. The imagination, creativity, problem-solving and boundary-pushing involved in their leisure time activities have been shown to be crucial for developing kids’ self-confidence and practical knowledge of the world. Many feel that technology takes away from kids’ playtime, but the truth is it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. Sure, it’s tough to watch Phineas & Ferb while playing soccer or to play Xbox while riding a bike, but many toys these days use technology as their basis for creating modern play experiences for children. Following are five of the best tech toys for kids, all of which go beyond pure entertainment to deliver more enriching fun on all fronts:
Fijit Friends – Fijit Friends are interactive robots with soft, squishy bodies and a face that literally lights up when they are interacting with music or telling jokes. They can dance to the beat of whatever music is playing, or can play and dance to their own tunes. Fijit Friends even interact with their owners, answering questions and doing whatever they can to make kids smile and laugh. Mini Fijit Friends called Newbies and an updated version called Yippits are testament to the popularity and fun of these lightweight robots.
LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer – Even though many toddlers just go straight for the family iPad, LeapFrog has designed a ready alternative in the LeapPad Explorer – a tablet that’s made specifically for the preschool crowd. Considering that 90% of parents think that playing apps on a tablet has educational potential, according to a recent Common Sense survey, it makes sense that many look to start their kids on a tablet that’s guaranteed to provide just that. Apps for the device cost $5, and it also supports other cartridge-based LeapFrog games which sell for $25. For younger kids, the LeadPad Explorer is much more reasonably priced that iPad, and provides parents with peace of mind that everything that’s happening on it has educational value.
Skylanders – Skylanders are real-life toy figures that were created to be used in conjunction with the Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure video game for Activision. By placing the action figure on the Portal of Power (which comes included with the video game), the action figure’s likeness seems to come to life onscreen, allowing kids to play, interact and control their toys that their parents could only dream of. If the concept doesn’t grab you, just imagine how excited you’d have been if you could magically play with all those Smurfs and He-Man figures you collected when you were growing up. Now you can understand why more than 30 million Skylanders were sold in the game’s first six months, making it an instant mega-franchise, which will spawn sequels, apps, shows, copycats and more. The Skylanders video game is available for all video game consoles and costs about $70, and additional action figures are sold separately for about $10 each.
Crayola Digital Light Designer – A sort of modern-day Lite Brite, the Digital Light Designer features a domed drawing surface which lets kids create and animate a full color, 360-degree LED light show using a light pen. Kids can save, replay and edit their creations, and can also use built-in apps and activities to help guide their experience. Whether it’s using cool effects like melt, spin or change color or playing interactive games like a maze race, connect the dots or mirror draw, kids and adults will love how technology makes both guided and creative play possible. The Crayola Digital Light Designer will cost around $50.
Angry Birds Knock on Wood – While the other toys we’ve highlighted use technology to create the play experience, Angry Birds Knock on Wood translates a technology-based experience into real-life. From Mattel and intended for ages 5 and up, this board game comes with various structural elements, green pigs and an assortment of Angry Birds based on the ubiquitously popular Angry Birds app. Players draw cards to create obstacles, and then must slingshot the birds into it to knock it down. The only problem we really have this one is that that kids will want to use more and more pieces, but using blocks or even Jenga pieces will help expand the gameplay experience beyond the recommended card game.