High-tech toys kids will love

Cool new gadgets and games that help make learning fun

Published: December 2010

Don't tell the kids that they'll learn something from these toys! They'll have so much fun playing that they might not even notice. To come up with this year's list of hot toys, we checked in with Reyne Rice, trend specialist for the Toy Industry Association, and Marianne Szymanski, president of Toy Tips (toytips.com), an independent toy-testing site. And while we didn't test these toys in our laboratories, we did ask our tech experts to play with them. The toys we chose are designed to foster musical talent, boost reading comprehension, or simply allow for self-expression, imagination, and discovery. All of the toys are available at mass retail chains, at toy stores, or online. Just don't forget to stock up on batteries!

Fisher-Price iXL (top) & Vtech V-Reader

Toys for little kids

 

Fisher-Price iXL (For kids to 6 years)
$79.99

Vtech V-Reader (For kids ages 3 to 7)
$59.99

 

The Fisher-Price iXL serves as a kiddie e-book reader, plus five other devices: a game player, virtual notepad, art studio, MP3 player, and photo viewer. The Vtech V-reader is styled just like a grown-up e-reader. It has a 4.3-inch, color touch screen that helps kids learn to read through stories that come alive with animation, narration, character voices, and music. Download more stories (some are free) at vtechkids.com.

 

Fisher-Price Kid-Tough video camera

Fisher-Price Kid-Tough video camera (For kids ages 3 to 7)
$59.99

This camcorder is easy to hold and operate, and it kept recording even after we dropped it. Kids will love the instant-replay button, which lets them view their footage immediately on the 1.4-inch, color screen. Even better: Upload video to a computer (cable included, but you'll have to buy a cable to watch it on TV) to see it on a bigger screen. Comes with 15 minutes of memory; add more with an SD card.

Vtech Submarine Learning Boat

Vtech Submarine Learning Boat (For kids ages 9 months and up)
$17.99

This fun-shaped, floating toy engages kids as they learn about colors, numbers, and animals. Press a button, answer a question correctly, and water squirts from the sub's spout. A water sensor knows whether the sub is headed to the bath or dry land, so children can play with it in either environment. Auto shut-off preserves battery life.

 

Toys for bigger kids

Spin Master's Hawk Eye

 

Spin Master's Hawk Eye (For kids ages 12 and up)
$64.99

It's a remote-controlled copter and an eye-in-the-sky video camera that takes photos, too. Kids can hook it up to a computer and download their footage, which they can then share and edit, and even add sound effects. (Our pros found the image quality to be about the same as some pocket camcorders' and the photos to be standard low-resolution.) It claims to have "Steady-Fly Technology," but it was a challenge to keep steady, so parents may have to help kids at first.

Mattel Loopz

Mattel Loopz (For kids ages 7 and up)
$29.99

 

You might remember the memory game Simon, with its fast beeps and flashing lights. Here's the high-tech version, with four "loopz" that quickly flash patterns of light and music. The object: Remember and re-create the patterns by waving your hands through the loops. The longer you play, the faster the game. It's seven games in one, and kids can play solo or with up to three pals.

Hot Wheels Stealth Rides

Hot Wheels Stealth Rides (For kids ages 8 and up)
$24.99

This mini but mighty vehicle travels anywhere. It folds flat and fits into a case that's the size of a smart phone. Slide your ride out of its case and transform it into a speedy, 3D, fully functioning, remote-controlled vehicle. The case doubles as the remote control.

WowWee's Paper Jamz

WowWee's Paper Jamz (For kids ages 8 and up)
$24.99

It's a guitar that's as thin and light as a long umbrella, and it really plays! Choose one of six bold guitar designs, and drums, too. At this low price, it's an affordable way for kids to try out a musical instrument or to just have fun playing rock star. It's great for dexterity, too. Play one of three built-in songs (each guitar comes with different tunes) or freestyle your own jams. An amplifier ($14.99), a guitar strap ($5.99), and other accessories are available.

 

Toys for the whole family

Scrabble Flash

 

Scrabble Flash
$29.99

The X is still worth 8 points, but this souped-up Scrabble offers faster, more frantic play-a great game for wordsmiths and quick thinkers. Players slide, swap, and shuffle the electronic tiles to create as many three-, four-, or five-letter words as possible in a minute. The technology provides a new experience each time the game is played because the letters on the tiles change from game to game.

Monopoly Revolution Edition

Monopoly Revolution Edition
$34.99

Wheel and deal on this high-tech electronic edition as you move around the cool round board. To honor Monopoly's 75th anniversary this year, Hasbro's new version amps up the traditional game with a digital banker (and no more paper money!) that keeps track of your location and plays song clips and sound effects as you move around the board. Go to jail and a door slams! Pass Go and collect $2 million and a party tune starts playing.

 

How to buy safe toys

The most important thing you can do to make sure the toys you bring home are safe for your child is to buy age-appropriate ones. Young children can choke on small parts, so take those age guidelines seriously.

More tips for buying safe toys:

  • Look for "no phthalates" on labels. Phthalates are chemicals that are found in some plastics (they smell like a plastic shower curtain). They can be toxic if a child ingests them.
  • Buy American products. Toys that are made in the U.S. have a better safety record than many imports.
  • Watch for recalls. As we saw with the recent Fisher-Price toys recalls (more on page 83), any recalled toys should be removed from store shelves. But some may fall through the cracks, so check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's ongoing list of recalls, at cpsc.gov. It's especially important to check if you buy used toys on eBay or at a yard sale or consignment shop.
  • Don't buy toys at the dollar store. When we went shopping with our safety expert, Donald Mays, he found a number of cheaply made toys that could be dangerous to kids.

 

Terrific toy websites

You can buy fun holiday toys at these websites. Order early to avoid rush shipping fees at the holidays. All meet our standards for privacy, contact-info disclosure, and customer service.

Amazon.com

Shipping starts at $3.99; it's free when you spend $25 or more. Place holiday orders by Dec. 22.

BabyEarth

Shipping starts at $6.95; it's free when you spend $49 or more. Place holiday orders by Dec. 21.

Fat Brain Toys

Shipping starts at $5.25; it's free when you spend $99 or more. Place holiday orders by Dec. 17.

Growing Tree Toys

Shipping starts at $6.95; it's free when you spend $75 or more. Place holiday orders by Dec. 17.

Land of Nod

Shipping starts at $4.95. Place holiday orders by Dec. 20.


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