Tag Archives: vtech

Animals, Animals Everywhere

We’re gearing up for Toy Fair, where we’ll be spending four days up to our ears in toys and games. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll fill you in on what’s new and exciting for 2017. But one thing we can guarantee right now: regardless of whatever else is trending, animals will never go out of style. Here are some of our current faves.

FlipaZoo and Little FlipZees (Jay@Play)

flipazoo and flipzeeFlipaZoos are adorable plush pillows that are perfect for snuggle time and bed time. Each FlipaZoo is actually two animals in one. Just lift up the animal’s tail, pull it over its head (sounds painful, but no animals will be harmed), and you’ve got a completely new pet (don’t let your kids try this with your real pets). There’s a cat that turns into a mouse, a dragon that turns into a unicorn, a husky that turns into a polar bear, and several others. Jay@Play also makes mini versions called Little FlipZees. Big or little, they’re great for all ages. $19 for FlipaZoos; about $8.50 for FlipZees at your favorite retailer. http://www.flipazoo.com

Bright Bugz Evolution (Bright Bugz)

Bright BugzLike it or not, bugs are animals—and you’ll like these ones. Bright Bugz are small lights that turn on when you squeeze them and off when you release the pressure. That allows you to create the illusion of throwing the bug from hand to hand, putting in one ear and taking it out the other, and more. The app ads even more illusions, like throwing your bright bug into your phone. Bright Bugz are best used in the dark and you’ll need to spend some time practicing to get the timing down. But once you do, the effect will (as the company says) “glow your mind.” For ages 8+. Under $20 at retailers everywhere. http://brightbugz.com

Lion Guard Leap N Roar Kion (Just Play)

Lion Guard KionIn the hit Disney Junior series, Kion protects the Pride Lands. And he can do the very same for you. This extremely soft plush is motion activated: Push down on his hind end and he’ll leap. Wave your hand in front of his nose and he’ll shake his head, roar, and unleash some of his familiar phrases, which your kids will repeat over and over and over as they run around the house roaring. Batteries are included. Fortunately, Kion comes with an off switch. Unfortunately, kids don’t. For ages 3-6. Under $22 at amazon.com and other retailers.

Kitty Surprise: Siena and Her Kittens (Just Play)

Siena and KittensSiena is pregnant. How many kittens will she have—3, 4, 5?—and will they be boys or girls? Just like with a real cat, you have to wait to find out. Just so you know, one in four packages has four or five kittens, the rest have three. When Siena does finally give birth (which you’ll help by taking the kittens out of her pouch), you’ll find a litter of adorable, plush kittens with plastic heads, at least one of which meows. For ages 2+. Under $25 at major retailers.

Twinkle the Magical Unicorn (Vtech)

Twinkle the Magic UnicornTwinkle is part of Vtech’s Go! Go! Smart Friends world. She moves her head, walks, talks, and flaps her wings, and all she asks in return is a nibble of her golden magic carrot. If you’re especially nice, her horn will light up and change colors. This playset comes with Prisma the magic fairy and the golden carrot, and interacts with other Smart Friends characters (which are sold separately). Limited-life batteries included. Ages 18 months to 5 years. Under $20 at amazon.com and elsewhere.

Big Digital for Little Digits

Like it or not, we live in a world that is more and more dependent on technology. And if we expect our children to thrive in an increasingly complex and competitive world, they need to be technologically competent. Some toys and games include tech features simply because they can. Others, such as the ones we’re reviewing this week, integrate technology in a way that actually encourages learning.

DigiArt Creative Easel (VTech)

vtech digi art easelTransformers are everywhere… This highly interactive art center transforms from a desk to an easel to a chalkboard and back again in a way that really encourages kids’ creativity. For those who need a little help, the light-up dry-erase board and magic pen make it easy for kids to trace more than 150 numbers, letters, basic shapes, and simple objects. And at 40” high, it may be taller than your child. The easel is also wired for sound and comes with 100 vocabulary words and more than a dozen songs and tunes. Chalk included, but batteries aren’t. It’s for ages 3+. Retails for under $54. https://www.vtechkids.com/

Touch & Learn Activity Desk (VTech)

vtech touch & learnAnother transformer, this one flipping between an activity desk, chalkboard, and art station (with dry-erase board). It comes with engaging “activity cards” that introduce numbers, letters, colors, songs, and themed vocabulary words (such as fruits and body parts). Additional curriculum packs are sold separately. The desk has plenty of space for storing supplies and comes with a pretend phone, a music player, and a stool (but no batteries). For you, there’s an auto shutoff feature and a special button that allows you to check on your child’s progress. It’s for ages 2+ and retails for under $45.

Care for Me Learning Carrier (VTech)

vtech care for meYour little one will learn about colors, shapes, and even how to care for a pet. It comes with an adorable plush puppy (whew—no litter box to change), supplies (bowl, ball, comb, and bottle), and an interactive carrier that makes it easy for your toddler to take his or her pet everywhere. There are also human-only features, such as sliding beads that introduce letters and play music, and plenty of buttons that help your two-legged pet learn opposites, colors, shapes, and more. Batteries required but not included. For ages 9-36 months. Under $25.

Pull & Learn Alligator (VTech)

vtech aligatorYour child will want to drag this adorable, wisecracking alligator everywhere. Each of the 26 letter buttons on the gator’s back introduces a letter, the sounds it makes, words that start with it, and more. Flip a switch and you’ll get some positively silly sentences that are sure to lead to laughs. Flip another and you’ll get fun facts about all sorts of things. The gator himself chomps and shakes his head when you pull him, and his tail flashes when he “talks.” Comes with 125 songs, melodies, phrases, learning-reinforcing quiz questions, and more. And for you, there’s a volume control and auto shutoff. Batteries not included. For ages 18 months to 4 years. Under $17.

Zoo Jamz Piano (Vtech)

vtech zoo jamz pianoAlthough this instrument looks like a keyboard, it’s actually more of a synthesizer, allowing your child to produce the sounds of a piano, violin, saxophone, or violin. The keys on the keyboard light up so your child can learn familiar songs (it’s pre-loaded with more than 20), and the sound-amplifying microphone lets your little one sing along. There’s a whammy bar and scratch disc (for those funky rap-ish sounds). Batteries not included. For ages 18 months to 4 years. Under $25.

Shooting Stars

Little kids have access to more technology than ever before. And one of their favorite activities is taking pictures. For parents, the challenge is finding inexpensive, good-quality, easy-to-use cameras. This week we look at two devices that satisfy all three requirements, as well as some toys that make use of an alternate definition of “shoot,” and something that’ll help instill some order into your spring and summer.

kidizoom smart watchKidizoom Smart Watch DX (VTech)
VTech has packed an amazing number of features into one kid-friendly smart watch. For example, your little one can take photos, shoot videos, play games, and record his or her voice. He or she can also use the Smart Watch DX as a pedometer, timer, alarm, and, gasp, as an actual watch (choose a clock display from among more than 50 analog or digital options). It’s all accessible through an easy-to-use touch screen display. The rechargeable battery lasts anywhere from a day to two weeks, depending on usage. And the internal memory can store a day’s worth of pics and vids that Mom or Dad can USB over to your computer for editing. The DX watch is splash- and sweat proof, but not intended for underwater use. Ages 4+. $44.99 www.vtechkids.com

snap petSnap Pets (WowWee)
Snap Pets are cute, easy-to-use, Bluetooth cameras that are great for taking selfies, group shots, and more. It all starts by pairing the free app with your Pet (they come in a variety of colors and animals). Once that’s done, you can start shooting. Sometimes it’s hard—especially for people with small hands—to hold the phone for a selfie and push the shutter button without messing up the shot or dropping the phone. But Snap Pet gives you several options. The Pet is small enough to fit in a child’s hand and all you do is hold it at arm’s length and push the button on its head. Your selfie is automatically Bluetoothed over to your phone or tablet. Want to include yourself in a group action shot? No problem. Just put your Pet down, set the timer, and start dancing. Phone ran out of juice? No problem there either. The Snap Pet can store up to 20 pics that you can download, edit, and share with your besties later. Ages 6+. About $29.95. www.wowwee.com

air warrior blastersAir Warrior blasters (Buzz Bee Toys)
Taking pics isn’t the only kind of shooting kids like. And Buzz Bee (now part of the Alex Brands family—and you know how we love Alex!) has a whole collection of fun, safe, blasters for the whole family. All of them shoot foam suction darts and offer a wonderful opportunity to talk to kids about gun safety. The Predator launches those darts up to 30 feet; the Snipe sends them flying up to 72 feet; and the Tyrant blasts as far as 80 feet. Ages 6+. Prices vary. http://www.buzzbeetoys.com

epson labelworks label makerLabelWorks Label Printers (Epson)
Winter is barely underway, but we’re already starting to think about spring cleaning and even plan for the summer, both of which involve plenty of organization. For those of us with not-very-legible handwriting, creating labels for files or trying to put a child’s name on the inside of a piece of clothing is a frightening prospect. Epson’s LabelWorks line makes that a lot easier. Depending on the unit and the label material, you can create just about any kind of label, including crack-and-peel, tape, and iron-on. Kits generally come with several label cartridges and a keyboard that prints letters, numbers, symbols, emojis, and a lot more. Prices vary. www.epson.com/labelworks

Imagination and Coordination

This week we take a look at a number of toys that combine imagination and fine motor skills.

playmobil horse farmTake Along Horse Farm (Playmobil)
As readers of this column know, we’re big fans of building systems. But not every child shares that particular passion. This colorful, realistic set is perfect for the child who doesn’t mind putting a few pieces together, but would much rather spend his or her time getting the horses fed, groomed, exercised, and ready for to ride. The 81 pieces include two horses, three humans, a couple of dogs, a wheelbarrow for delivering food (or removing horse manure), scrub brushes, and more. The barn itself turns into an easy-to-carry case so your little equestrian will be able to pack up the whole thing and take the show on the road (or just back to his or her room). Ages 4-10. $35.53 at Amazon.

playmobil sunshine preschoolSunshine Preschool Set (Playmobil)
Like the Horse Farm, this set doesn’t require much building, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact, with 394 pieces, there’s almost no limit to the number of entertaining, home-related scenes a creative boy or girl can concoct. The setting is, as you might guess from the name, the Sunshine Preschool, and the kit includes one adult figure, four children, and a dizzying array of accessories: a music area complete with instruments, a climbing wall, a clock with moveable hands, backpacks, pencils, paintbrushes, a coffee pot, mugs, a chalkboard, two toilets, and a lot more. The only risk is that after spending time at the Sunshine school, your child may refuse to go to his or her own preschool—Sunshine is definitely a hard act to follow. Ages 4-10. 394 pieces. $99.99 at Amazon.

flipsies SandyFlipsies Sandy’s House and Ocean Cruiser (VTech)
Sandy is just one of the Flipsies, collectible dolls that are designed to inspire the little girls who play with them. Sandy wants to be a marine biologist, and each of the other Flipsies has her own unique dreams. Carina’s on her way to medical school, Styla runs a fashion boutique, Eva wants to be a veterinarian, and Clementine has a thing for ice cream. All of the Flipsies (each is sold separately) can switch clothes, accessories, and even hair. But what’s especially fun is the MagicPoint locations that are in each Flipsie’s habitat. Put Sandy in one of the MagicPoints on her Ocean Cruiser and she’ll tell you something nautical. Put her into a MagicPoint in Styla’s salon, and she’ll tell you something that’s appropriate for a budding biologist with a strong sense of style. Ages 4-9. Prices vary, depending on the kit. This one is $56.62 at Amazon.

tugie, marbles the brain storeTugie (Marbles, the Brain Store)
Tugie (pronounced “tuggie”) is a fun, engaging game that’s super easy to learn and definitely has that “let’s play another round” quality. There are 12 colorful disc-like pieces that stack on a spindle, plus a gray one that sits on the very top. Each disc has a string attached. Players take turns rolling a die to see which color they need to remove by tugging on the string. If you get your disc out, gently place it on top, and it’s the next player’s turn. But you’ve got to be careful—if you knock any pieces off the spindle, you keep them. The player with the fewest wins the round. Each round takes no more than a few minutes to play. Tugie requires a fair amount of hand-eye coordination (not quite as much as Jenga) and a bit of luck. Ages 5 and up. $29.99.  http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/

Starting Off the Year with a Bang

Like it or not, kids are fascinated by things that shoot. And while we understand that some parents are completely against anything that looks remotely like a weapon, shooting toys aren’t going away anytime soon. In our view, there’s nothing inherently wrong with firearms (admittedly, my being a Marine Corps vet may influence that philosophy). So the solution is to learn to use them safely. This week we take a look at two amazing blasters and one other toy that stretches the definition of “shoot” a little

rapid madnessBOOMco Rapid Madness (Mattel)
Rapid Madness gives blaster fans two ways to shoot: one dart at a time or 20 in about 5 seconds. Either way, the foam darts can fly up to 50 feet. One of the drawbacks with other dart-shooting blasters is that you never know for sure whether you’ve hit your target. Not so with Rapid Madness. The darts have “Smart Stick” tips that cling to the included target, as well as to some glossy surfaces, which makes competitive shooting and scoring easy. Darts also stick to the pop-up shield that’s part of the blaster so you can seize your opponent’s ammo. Comes with 30 darts, a 20-dart clip, and the target. We generally don’t talk about packaging in our reviews, but the “certified frustration-proof packaging” means you can be up and shooting within minutes instead of running around trying to find a scissors or wire cutter. Ages 6 and up. $25-$40. http://shop.mattel.com/

xploderz mayhem Xploderz Mayhem Firestorm series (Maya Group)
We first saw Xploderz at Toy Fair a few years ago and were impressed with the unique ammo, which starts off as tiny pellets (that can’t be fired) and turns into gel-like marbles (that can be fired) when soaked in water. We also loved that they’re completely non-toxic, don’t stain, require virtually no clean-up, and really and truly don’t hurt. We mention that last bit just in case someone gets hit—we highly recommend that you have your children fire at non-human (or animal) targets, or, if they do fire at other people, they aim no higher than their target’s waist). Mayhem comes with 2,000 rounds and 250-round clip. So while your opponents are busy trying to find their darts under the couch and fumbling around trying to re-load them, you can keep blasting away (at two rounds per second, you’ve got more than two minutes of non-stop firepower). Plus, with an accuracy range of 50 to 80 feet, you’ll be invincible. Ages 8 and up. About $18. http://xploderz.com/

vtech smart shotSmart Shots Sports Center (Vtech)
Okay, this one isn’t a weapon, but it still involves shooting. The target, however, is either a basketball hoop or a soccer net. When your toddler drives in for a layup or shoots a half-court jumper, Sports Center’s LED screen keeps score. And when he or she finds the back of the net, Sports Center applauds, cheers, and shows encouraging animations. It’s a fun, energetic way to expose young kids to both sports. If your little one gets tired of shooting and kicking and wants to relax by brushing up on fine motor skills, there are plenty of buttons and other things to play with that introduce shapes and numbers and make all sorts of fun sounds. Comes with a small basketball, soccer ball, net, and hoop. All you need is batteries, which aren’t included. Ages 12-36 months. About $28.  http://www.vtechkids.com/

Making Summer Travel Fun

Planning to hit the road this summer? If so, you’ll definitely want to check out some of the great travel items that will reduce family squabbling and keep the kids happy, entertained, and, most of all, quiet!

SeatPets (SeatPets)
seatpets parents@playFor kids, seatbelts can be the most annoying part of any trip—even worse than a younger sibling. Kids spend half their time squirming around, trying to get the seatbelt into a more comfortable position. And if they fall asleep, they often wake up with a seatbelt mark on the face. With SeatPets, those problems are a thing of the past. Little bro or sis, however, will still be as annoying as ever. SeatPets are soft, cuddly creatures that fit over any seatbelt, making it a lot more comfortable. They also have big, soft heads (lion, cow, ladybug, cat, dog, monkey, and monster), which help keep the child’s head supported and reduce those sore nap-necks. These plush pals also come with a variety of pockets so kids can store away treasures, and a handy backpack strap, which makes it easy for Junior to schlepp his own Pet when your hands are full. $19.95 (discounted if you buy more than one). https://www.seatpets.com/

Peppa Pig Picnic Adventure Car (Fisher-Price)
peppa pigIf you haven’t been to Europe lately, you may never have heard of Peppa Pig. But you will soon. Peppa is a precocious porker with her own TV show and, not surprisingly, a line of toys, books, and other products, including the Picnic Adventure Car. Kids will love to act out their own road trip with Peppa and her pal George (included) and the bright red family car, which plays songs, says phrases, and even does the famous (or soon-to-be-famous) “Peppa snort” that will send your child into fits of giggles. Comes with a picnic basket and blanket. $19.99. http://www.peppapig.com/

My First Camera (Plan Toys)
my first camera plan toys parents@playEven the youngest kids are fascinated by electronics. They’re also incredibly hard on them. With My First Camera, toddlers and preschooler will enjoy “taking pictures” just like mom and dad. Plus, it keeps those little fingers busy and away from your expensive camera. The kaleidoscopic lens gives kids a different view of the world every time they look through it, and there’s even a strap to help them keep it nearby. My First Camera is eco friendly—made of sustainable materials, water-based dyes, and organic woods, meaning it’s no big deal if it ends up in someone’s mouth. $15.00. http://en.plantoys.com/

Kidzoom Camera and InnoTab 3 (VTech)
If your child is too big to be distracted by a camera that doesn’t actually take pictures, try Vtech’s Kidzoom Camera. It’s a fully functional digital camera that not only lets your child take and edit photos (with cool effects), but also make movies and play three included games. The camera holds up to 1,000 photos that are as high-res as many budget-priced cameras aimed at adults. $39.99. http://www.vtechkids.com

vtech innotab parents@playVtech also has an array of tablets for kids, from the youngest right up until they’re ready for their own iPad. Officially, they’re toys, but they’re actually pretty sophisticated. The new InnoTab 3 has a child-friendly, multi-function, touch screen that’s easy-to-use and nearly impossible to break. And with Learning Lodge, which is VTech’s proprietary library, kids can download apps, books, music, or choose from games that teach them subjects like math, social studies, which will help minimize the summer brain drain. $69.99.