Jonathan Takiff: New 'toys' let kids play like grown-ups

The Laugh & Learn Baby iCan Play Case is designed for children ages 9 to 36 months.
The Laugh & Learn Baby iCan Play Case is designed for children ages 9 to 36 months.
Posted: February 23, 2011

THE GIZMO: Toys that mimic adult gadgets like iPads, Kindles and mobile phones grabbed lots of attention at the 2011 American International Toy Fair last week in New York.

MY FIRST

iPhone: You can't fool kids with nonfunctioning toy phones, when the real thing is around. So Fisher-Price says don't resist - protect - with the Laugh & Learn Baby iCan Play Case, designed for ages 9 to 36 months ($14.99, available in July).

Mom or Dad's iPhone or iPod Touch is locked inside this durable rubber case with easy-grasp, baby-size handles. Now your infant can safely trade private giggles with distant grandparents via Face Time, or use free downloadable Fisher-Price apps that teach with interactive characters and songs. When you take back that other Apple of your eye, the case still entertains with rattle beads and a mirror.

TABLETS FOR KIDS: If the young'uns don't mind using a less sensitive touch-screen technology that responds better to a pointy stylus than a finger, you might lure them away from your iPad to their very own toddler tablet computer. Both the VTech InnoPad ($79.99) and Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer ($99.99) come alive with a five-inch color screen and built-in speaker using $25 software cartridges that deliver interactive, animated reading, learning games and other activities featuring favorite characters from "Toy Story," "Dora the Explorer" and other 4- to 9-year-old faves.

Transfer audio and video content from a PC or Mac, including e-books and learning games from VTech and Leapfrog sites.

Both kiddie pads have an SD card slot for memory expansion while the LeapPad Explorer adds a camera, just like we're hoping for in the next-gen iPad!

RADIO WAVES: Your children will communicate like (retro) superheroes with Sakar's Captain America CB/Radio/Walkie Talkie Set and Thor Walkie Talkies, both inspired by upcoming Marvel Studio movies.

A different kind of radio technology, RFID (radio frequency identification tagging) comes into play with Activision Blizzard's Skylanders Spyro's Adventure, the first example of a new hybrid of action figures and video games.

When RFID-tagged characters are placed on a "portal of power," information about their powers and features is transferred wirelessly to and from a Wii, PS3 (with Move) or Xbox 360 video game console, to interact with the gaming action on a TV screen.

GUMMY GOODNESS: Gummy Bear gel candies have gone high-tech with Sakar's squeezably soft Gummy Bear digital Camera, MP3 player, iPod cases and, my favorite, the $9.99 Gummy Earbuds.

The latter plug into all headphone audio devices and feature colorful bear decorations with sweet, fruity scents to match. Boys who find that look too girlie cute can look to Sakar's Monster High Earbuds, part of a new monster-chic gadget line tied to a Mattel franchise.

3-D IN YOUR FACE: Movie theater-supplied 3-D glasses are sometimes too big for little faces. To the rescue comes Hasbro's Transformers Cine-Mask 3D, which combines Bumblebee and Optimus Prime masks with built-in passive 3-D glasses.

While hitting stores (at $9.99) timed to Paramount Pictures' July 1 release of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," the masks will also be compatible with any 3-D film featuring RealD or Disney 3D technology.

For back seat fun, Coby's just-out 3-D portable DVD player with seven-inch "auto-stereoscopic" screen produces simulated 3-D images from conventional DVDs without special specs. And gosh, it really works - kinda! ($112.99 at www.jr.com).

SPY VS. SPY: Wild Planet's Spy Gear line keeps upping the tech ante, this year with a Body Wire portable recorder ($10-$18) and a motion- activated digital camera, Capture Cam ($24.99, both available in the fall) that automatically snaps a shot (or 30) when someone crosses its invisible detection beam. Later, junior sleuths can connect the camera to a computer and edit the images with Spy Photo Lab software.

The rival Jakks Pacific Spy Net line includes Video Recording Glasses ($39.99, available in October) that can secretly record video and still images, and a $9.99 HQ Door Alarm that's disabled by a card swipe system.

MUSIC TECH: Activision has given up on "Guitar Hero," and MTV Games is off the "Rock Band" case. Still, Wow Wee will push an upgraded Paper Jamz Pro Series Guitar and Drum ($40), a circuit-imbedded, cardboard- thin music maker that requires no video game connection, takes MP3 downloads, features real chords and soloing (in rhythm mode) and changes pitch when you shake the neck. Also new in the line, a Justin Bieber Keyboard Guitar ($30) containing voice samples and Bieber songs. (both available in August/September).

Got a would-be rapper in your midst? Lots of the pros now twist their tones with a processing technology that lends an otherworldly, robotic vocal flava. Fledglings can do the same with Pro-Tunes' I Am T-Pain Mic, ($30, summer). It uses the same pitch-altering software that propels the rapper's popular iPhone app.

MY FIRST REMOTE: Get your baby tech-tuned and learning by interacting with a Brainy Buddy, a DVD remote control disguised as a plush animal. Squeezing the colors and symbols on the creature's arms and legs, kidlet gets the companion DVD to jump to special, rewarding spots in the program ($34.99, available for holiday gift-giving).

Send e-mail to takiffj@phillynews.com.

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