Bratz Laptop, Talking Whiz Kid Notebook, and More:
Tech Savvy Toys for a New Generation
by Amy Finley
In a Digital World…
If you’re looking for a gift for a child, chances are you’ll be bombarded with a selection of high-tech, electronically infused toys. In today’s ‘digital’ world, most toys have some kind of electronic feature, whether it’s the LCD screen of the Lil’ Bratz laptop or the engine sound of the dollar store toy car. While many kids still enjoy playing with more ‘traditional’ toys like blocks and dolls, more and more kids are going for the stuff that lights up, talks back, and offers multi-media, audiovisual stimulation. While some people may worry about ‘protecting’ children from all the advances of technology, experts seem to think that there is little we can do to prevent children from becoming enmeshed our fast-paced, digital world. (I happen to agree – my two-and-a half-year-old knew how to work the VCR long before he knew his colors).
Benefits of hi-tech toys
While there is reason to be cautious in whatever choices we are making for our children, there are many benefits of hi-tech toys, as long as they are not replacements for parental interaction and supervision. These include intellectual, visual, and auditory stimulation, encouraging learning by making it more exciting for kids, fine motor skills, and are precursors to using devices like computers you know they’ll eventually be using on a regular (if they’re not already). (Won’t you feel better if your 5 or six year old gets used to using her Lil’ Bratz Laptop before she tries to use your pc or laptop?)
From the Barbie, Hotwheel, and Bratz laptop to juicebox personal media players
The makers of hi-tech toys offer a huge array of choices in styles, color, and design. Popular characters and brands are featured on many of these as well. Many of these products are geared towards kids between the ages of 6- 10 – too old for regular ‘toys’ to be cool, and a little too young for the ‘real’ stuff. (This is not to say there isn’t a huge market for these kinds of toys for younger children. Probably 80% of toys my two-and-a-half year old and three month have light up, make noise, or have some kind of gadget involved.) So here are some of the hottest products in the market right now for kids in the six to eight year old range:
Laptops – The Barbie B Bright or Hot Wheels laptop: (Oregon Scientific -- ($40-$50) This is a ‘learning’ laptop that includes 25 activities, including those to strengthen vocabulary, logic, math, and music, as well as games and computer skill activities.
Lil’ Bratz laptop: ($50- $60) This laptop has a game center which includes a variety of learning games themed around Lil’ Bratz, music, and fashion and style activities (if you’re looking for expert recommendations on buying a gift, my seven year old claims that the Bratz laptop is “the coolest” and she wants to save her allowance to get one. I hate to tell her that it’ll take her thirty weeks before she’ll have enough to buy it – and that’s only if she doesn’t buy any bubblegum the rest of the year.)
Talking Whiz Kid Notebook 2000: (Vtech -- around $60) This laptop could be for a boy or a girl, and includes thirty four activities for math, vocabulary, spelling, as well as over 1000 trivia questions on math, science, geography, history, and animals.
Lindsey’s laptop and notebook: (around $32): Now even dolls can have their own laptops! This accessory set for Today’s American Girl doll, Lindsey, stores over 50 phone numbers, as well as having calculator function, date and time.
Juicebox Personal Media Player: (Mattel – around $70) This juicebox (in Kool-Aid bright colors no less) size personal media player allows the viewer to watch cartoons and shows, view digital pictures, and play mp3 music files.
Fisher Price Pixter: (around $70) This digital drawing board includes 128 colors, special effects, and a speaker for sound.
Video Now player:(Hasbro – ($99) Video now players allow kids to view their favorite shows and movies (no more fighting over the remote!)
Turbo Extreme Handheld: (Leapfrog – around $35) This twist and turn game system offers fun and educational games in a variety of subjects.
Well, there you have just a few of the latest hi-tech toys combining fun and education for grade school kids. (Just a tip – these items make great birthday gifts – not only because they’re cool, but because, like the Bratz laptop my daughter wants, but at $35 and up, they might not be so hot by the time a kid saves up enough money for them!)
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In addition to being a freelance writer for Pulsemed International, Ms. Finley is a graduate student working on her M. A. in English Literature at Cleveland State University, a creative writer, and an editor with Editfast. Ms. Finley is also the mother of three young children.