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Parents@Play Gift Guide #5: WowWee! Robots, Coding, and More

These toys are so great they need no introduction!

CHiP (WowWee)

wowwee chipIn a word, CHiP is amazing. He’s a smart, trainable, affectionate robot puppy that’s always ready to play. Tell him to fetch, and he’ll bolt after his Bluetooth-enabled ball. Give him a kiss, and he’ll give you a slobber-free one right back. Tell him to do yoga, and he’ll do a perfect downward-facing dog (no cat-cow for this little guy). If you wear the SmartBand, he’ll follow you around the house. But if you ignore him for more than a few minutes, he’ll bark to attract your attention. The voice-recognition is great and so is the hardware, which enables CHiP to avoid obstacles and respond to a variety of touches and gestures. The wheels are especially cool and allow CHiP to move in any direction—even sideways—and on almost any surface. You can play with CHiP for hours on a single charge, and when his energy level drops, his eyes change color and he automatically makes his way back to his SmartBed to nap. Ages 8+. Around $180. http://wowwee.com

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Cold Enough for You?

With much of the USA spending a lot of their time indoors these days, it’s important to think about what the kids are doing to entertain themselves. Here are a few of our current favorite toys to while away the winter.

Star Wars Hero Mashers (Hasbro)

star wars hero masherHasbro’s previous Mashers sets have included Spiderman, Jurassic’s World dinosaurs, and Transformers, so Star Wars couldn’t have been far behind. Oddly, though, only the male characters are available. Despite that glaring oversight, these toys are amazingly fun and give children hours of play, acting out favorite episodes, comics, and making up their own adventures. These figures are nicely articulated and fully interchangeable, so you can swap heads, arms, weapons, and everything else to create your very own ultimate hero (or villain). The only thing that would make them better would be to bring on Rey, Black Widow, Jessica Jones (without the booze), and the other leading ladies of heroism. Women matter. Hey—without Rey, how does the Force awaken, anyway? Prices vary. Learn more at http://www.hasbro.com/en-us/brands/heromashers

Marvel Legends Infinite Series (Hasbro)

marvel legends infiniteAha! If you’re looking for those female action figures, they’re over here, sitting on shelves right next to the guys. So now Wasp, Spidergirl, and a few others can join your child in adventures with Ant Man, Spiderman, Iron Man, Venom, and more. The Infinite Series is great for a number of reasons. First, the figures really look like their characters. Second, the line also includes some hard-to-find characters. Third, all of the figures are nicely articulated and seem to be begging you to pick them up and play with them (as opposed to collector editions that look great on a shelf but won’t stand up to being tossed around. Fourth, when you buy one, you get a bonus piece: an arm, a head, or something else that you can use to build a whole new toy once your collection is complete. Why wait for Marvel to create a new superhero when you can do it yourself? Around $20 each at stores like Toys R Us.

DigiBirds (Spinmaster)

digibirdThese friendly birds are adorable, and come in a variety of breeds, colors, and packages. You can get owls, penguins, chicks, and others one at a time, in multi packs, and in sets that include a birdcage, igloo, or another habitat. There are so many options that your child can assemble a whole chorus of tweeting friends. DigiBirds dance, bop, chirp, sing—either alone or in ensembles with their buddies—and do pretty much everything real birds do but fly and, oh, you know. Your child can blow into the (included) whistle ring to get the party started, or she can place two birds close together and they’ll automatically sync up and sing together. Want to expand the birds’ repertoires? Just download the free DigiBirds app. Prices start at about $10.99 at stores like Kmart. Learn more at http://us.digibirds.com/

Star Wars Disney Infiniti (Disney)

disney infinityWhile we’re strong with the Force, have you and your children played the new Disney Infinity 3.0 yet? It’s fun, interactive, and if you don’t already own one, it may become your console of choice. Some Infiniti characters are already out, and the most recent releases include Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. You and your kids can awaken the Force, become a Rebel, or create new scenarios with your favorite Disney characters who’ve made the jump from a screen to your living room floor. Where else can Boba Fett and Princess Jasmine hang out, after all? Learn more at https://infinity.disney.com

Childhood in Motion

As anyone who’s ever spent time with little kids can attest, children are geniuses at play and can quite literally make something out of almost nothing. Salt and pepper shakers and bags of artificial sweetener on a restaurant table become Dad, Mom, and the rest of the family. Cardboard boxes become rocket ships, and sticks become swords. What’s especially nice about imaginative play is that everyone—regardless of age—can get involved. This week we take a look at several simple toys that run on imagination (and, in two cases, batteries).

 

speed boat green toysSpeed Boat (Green Toys)

Children don’t usually care where a toy is manufactured from or what it’s made of. If it’s fun, they’re all in. Green Toys consistently delivers, with their line of simple, low- or no-tech toys that encourage imaginative play. Parents, however, are often looking for something more meaningful than just fun—and Green Toys delivers here as well. Their toys are manufactured in the US from 100% recycled materials and are dishwasher safe. The packaging (also made of recycled materials) delivers some subtle messages to Mom and Dad about sustainability, saving energy, and minimizing our carbon footprint. For ages 2 and up. $11.99. http://www.greentoys.com/

 

paw patroller spinmasterPaw Patroller (Spin Master)

If your kids like Paw Patrol, they’ll love this multi-level vehicle transporter and command center. The Patroller can carry three Paw Patrol vehicles inside—just drive ‘em in, close the door, and you’re off to help those altruistic pups on their next rescue mission. The pups themselves ride in the cab up front. There are a few buttons that play sounds that the kids (and you, if you’ve ever watched the TV show) will recognize. And there’s a kid-powered elevator to move the vehicles up and down between levels. Comes with one Ryder figure and his ATV. For ages 3+, $59.99 at your favorite retailer. http://www.spinmaster.com/

 

zoomer kittyZoomer Kitty (Spin Master)

If your child has been asking for a pet but you’re not quite ready to make the commitment to a real, live animal, you may want to adopt Zoomer Kitty instead. With touch sensors on her head and elsewhere, Zoomer Kitty loves to be petted, leans in for more, and even purrs contentedly. The “True Vision Technology” allows her to follow your movements. She stretches, pounces, plays with her kitty toy, naps, kneads the ground, and occasionally hisses—pretty much everything a real cat does except scratch you and fill the litter box. For ages 5 and up. $99.99 only at Kmart. http://www.spinmaster.com/

 

submarineSubmarine and Jungle Jams Drum (PBS KIDS and Whole Foods Market)

jungle jams drumLike Green Toys, PBS KIDS and Whole Foods Market care about how the things our kids play with impact the earth we live on. So all of their toys are made from responsibly sourced materials. Plus, 100% of PBS KIDS’ net proceeds go to the organization’s non-profit work with kids, and Whole Foods is donating a portion of their proceeds to their foundation. The adorable submarine—complete with rear propeller—comes with its very own diver, and both float in water. And the drum, nicely decorated with cute animals, comes with a rubber-headed drumstick so your little ones can play to the beat of their own drummers without driving you cray with the noise. The submarine ($14.99) is for kids 12 months, and the Jungle Jams Drum ($24.99) is for ages 19 months and up. These and the rest of the toys in this line (including boats, puzzles, musical instruments and even a golf set) are available exclusively at Whole Foods Markets nationwide in their Whole Body section.

And Now, Direct from a Screen Near You…

Although parents aren’t always thrilled about it, kids love toys that bring their favorite TV and movie characters to “life.” This week, we review several fun new toys that do exactly that.

paw patrolPaw Patrol (NickJR)
If you have a little one, chances are you’ve seen or heard of Paw Patrol—the hit TV show aimed at Pre-K and kindergarteners. The show revolves around six puppies: Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Zuma, Rubble, and Skye, plus their 10-year old tech-loving human companion named Ryder. They work together as a team, solve problems, and help creatures and the environment while showing kids cooperation skills. Now the pups are available as toys, from plush to action figures and even vehicles (which play a large part in the show). The Racers are a particularly good value because they each come with one vehicle and one pup (they also have working tires). If your child is a fan of the show or of animals in general, these super-pups will be a nice treat for them. Available for $7.99 and up at Amazon, Target, and more.

turtle sub underseaTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Turtle Sub Undersea Chase (LEGO)
This set is just plain awesome, even if you’re not quite sure where you stand on the movie and whether it’s okay to turn a cherished, animated TV show into a live-action Megan Fox movie (Hmm. Does that sound a little biased?). With 684 pieces, including four figures (Donatello Leonardo, and two Kraang) it lets kids (and adults who like to pretend they bought this kit for their kids) recreate scenes from the movie, flicking missiles, firing shooters, and operating mini subs along the way. Or use your imagination and create something totally different. About $60 at your favorite retailer.

tmnt large figuresTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playmates Toys)
Haven’t had enough of those hard-shelled reptile badboys? Based on the movie characters, these figure are a little grittier than they have been in the past, but kids don’t seem to mind at all. Playmates has all of the main characters (the four Turtles, Shredder, the Foot Clan, and others) in a wide selection of sizes and styles, including wearable ones, which come with cuffs, a sword, and a bandana mask. There’s something here that every TNMT lover, old or new, will want to have. Right now. The large figures are about a foot tall and are more articulated then you might think, and after they’ve knocked each other around for a bit, they make great mentors for the six-inch figures (which are just as fun to play with). Small figures are about $9 at Toys R Us, and the large ones start at $14 on Amazon and other retailers.

how to train your dragon 2How to Train Your Dragon 2 Squirt and Float Dragons (Spin Master)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 Battle Sets (Spin Master)

If your kids loved How to Train Your Dragons 2 as much as our kids (and their parents) did, this is a great opportunity to bring the fun of the big screen direct to your living room—or your bathtub. The Squirt and Float Dragons comes with three figures (Toothless, Meatlug, and Stormfly), all of which can shoot water about four feet—just far enough to make your bathroom floor really slippery, so be careful. There are also three great Battle Sets, “Toothless vs. Dragon Catcher,” “Gronkle vs. Gronkle Cannon,” and “Zippleback vs. Zipplecatcher,” all of which will keep everyone (yes, you too, mom and dad) entertained for hours. $8 and up at stores like Toys R Us and Amazon.

More Movie Madness

A few weeks ago we reviewed a number of toys based on movie adaptations of comic books, including Iron Man, Superman, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This week we’re looking at more movie characters, but these are aimed at a younger crowd.

Sulley Monster Mask (Spinmaster)
sully maskThis plush mask is cute, not frightening—just like the real Sulley. But that won’t keep the kids from putting it on and trying to scare mom and dad. 100 percent kid-powered, the eyebrows move up and down and the mouth opens and closes along with the child’s.  A t-strap on the back keeps the mask in place but also allows for easy on and off. For ages 3 and up. $14.99. spinmaster.com/

Roll-A-Scare Race Playset and Roll-A-Scare Monsters Assortment (Spinmaster)
roll-a-scare trackIf you remember the Zoobies craze from a few years back, the Roll-A-Scare monsters will feel familiar. They start off round and careen down the Playset Race track that parents and kids can build together. But when they cross the magnetic finish line, they pop open. There are a total of 12 monsters (including Boo, who isn’t really a monster). Each of the 12 comes with a student ID card that also pops them open. The Playset is $20, and each of the monsters costs $7-$12. spinmaster.com/

My Scare Pal (Spinmaster)
scare palsThese squeezable, cuddly Mike and Sulley plush toys will soon become your child’s new best buddies. They’re great for toting around the house and acting out favorite scenes from the movie.  Pull Mike’s long arms and legs and he’ll say one of 10 funny lines, encouraging your child to help him grow and to watch his eye, since he only has one.  For some reason, Sulley has 15 lines plus a growl that will send the kids into enough giggles to power Monster City. The kids can also shake Sulley into Tickle Mode, Scare Mode, or Sleep Time mode. Requires 2 AA batteries (included). $20-30). spinmaster.com/

The Smurfs2 Movie Figures (JAKKS)
smurfsCelebrate the new Smurfs 2 movie with a fun line of highly-detailed characters. There are 24 different 2.75” figures (individual Smurfs cost $4 each, 2-packs for $7). You can also get any of a dozen 7.5” Bean Bag Plush Smurfs that are perfect for snuggling up with on a road trip (and Smurfs do love to travel). $8 each. www.Jakks.com

Disney Planes Wing Control Dusty Crophopper Remote Control Plane (Mattel)
dustyOne of the hottest kids movies right now is Disney Pixar’s Planes and this cool, interactive remote-control toy with an absurdly long name lets kids “become” Dusty, using their arms to control his movements.  In manual mode, your child pushes a button to start the propeller and move the plane forward, he or she then use the two controllers—one on each arm—to make the plane fly, dive, and roll. If your child doesn’t want to be a pilot, there’s also an autopilot mode too, which takes Dusty through three pre-programmed performances. $40. Batteries not included. http://shop.mattel.com/

Disney Planes Sky Track Challenge Track Set (Mattel)
This unique race set lets you attach planes to the track with special clips so they can do loops and other tricks. Lots of parent-child fun building the track, but the roadway didn’t hold together well so we ended up having to glue it. In addition, the set comes with only one plane, which is a bummer since a true “race” track should come with at least two vehicles, shouldn’t it? Still, pretty entertaining. $31 (plus the cost of an additional plane)  http://shop.mattel.com/