New York Toy Fair – Plug-and-Play Stations

As I mentioned in my previous post, there were fewer plug-n-play toys at Toy Fair this year than last. But of the ones that made an appearance, there seemed to be a more thoughtful approach as to what would make good use of plug-and-play technology. Here are a handful of new technology toys that have learning in mind and a couple of non-learning specific toys that are worth taking a look at:

ClickStart – My First Computer by LeapFrog
ClickStart photoThe ClickStart plug-and-play toy provides young children the experience computing in a fun and safe way, without tieing-up mom or dad’s home computer. This product includes a child-friendly keyboard and mouse, which can be set up to accommodate left or right handed users. The on-screen learning is guided by a friendly puppy named Scout. Children collect food treats for Scout as they complete games using numbers, letters, shapes and colors. This toy is a cartridge-based platform which means you can expect to see a number of different titles available to use with the base unit later this year. ClickStart is intended for children ages 3 – 6.

Easy Link Internet Launchpad by Fisher-Price
Easy Link photoThe Easy Link Internet Launchpad acts like a mom-approved dashboard to preschool-safe content on the web. Say a child would like to visit their favorite Sesame Street online game. All a child needs to do is pick up one of the many miniature figurines, in this case Elmo ( or Barney, Clifford, the Wiggles, Thomas the Train, Bob the Builder, and others) and place the figurine in its designated spot… a little like placing the round peg in the correct hole. Once inserted, the device automatically will link its user to the games section of sesamestreet.com. No typing is necessary and all content locations are child-safe with no external links to undesirable content. This product works best with children ages 3 – 6.

Digital Arts & Crafts Studio by Fisher-PriceDigital Arts & Crafts Studio photo
This digital art station plugs right into the USB port of your computer. The device has a drawing tablet and a stylus for kids to draw. Drawings made on the tablet will appear on the computer monitor. A number of different creative templates are available to get kids started, like custom-designed birthday cards, party materials, and other holiday and artistic treats as well. Completed artwork can be printed out on your own color printer. Parents will be happy to know the number of printed items coming from this toy can be limited so expensive color printer ink can be used sparingly if desired.

Whiz Kid Learning System by VTechWhiz Kid Learning System photo
This learning platform is unique in that it can be used with or without a computer, though it is a USB plug-and-play device. It has the ability to go where the child goes, untethered to some video monitor if desired. Up to 40 different activity pages can slide into this device for use with a stylus to make interactive selections on the tablet. Each page includes three different interactive learning activities. This product is also considered a platform, which means additional titles can be purchased to extend the learning and play experience through the base unit. (Additional titles for this product are referred to as “Wizware.”) Titles provide reading-based content as well as math, phonics, logic and creativity learning activities. Children ages 3 – 6 are intended audience for thsi product.

EyeClops by Jakks PacificEyeClops photo
This toy is not being released as a learning product, but I think it has huge learning potential. EyeClops plugs right into your TV and acts like a 200X microscope. Wherever your child points the camera lens the result is in a giant magnified visual on your TV screen. What does the surface of your skin look like close-up? What about that bug? What exactly is in that rug of yours? Exploration and discovery is the name of the game with this toy. The target audience is described as 8 – 12, but I think this toy has the ability to expand into other ages as well.

NetJet by Hasbro
NetJet photo NetJet is a clever USB connected handheld device created by Tiger Electronics, a division of Hasbro. NetJet consists of a handheld game controller and a game key. Each game key inserted into the controller allows its user to access different casual game content online. Popular games using familiar characters and brands are available through this device, but not to those without the controller and keys. The NetJet environment is also free of advertising. No banner of pop-up ads here. Kids are also kicked offline once the NetJet device is removed from the USB port. By this coming fall season, 40 different casual game titles will be available for purchase. This product will appeal to casual gamers, both young and old, but Tiger is best know for their success with the tween market. This is not a learning product, but NetJet is an excellent use of plug-and-play technology.

Digi Makeover by Radica
Digi Makeover photo This TV plug-and-play device first appeared at last year’s Toy Fair. It has a built in camera which allows it’s user to take a picture of oneself, then, through the controls on the tablet, modify hairstyles, add jewelry, and apply makeup. (Note: This product has brought about much discussion in our office about female stereo-typing and the kinds of messages it sends out to young girls. In our own testing of the product, we find that kids enjoyed the product greatly when we referred to it as a “stuffed animal makeover” toy. Kids couldn’t stop laughing when they gave a giant stuffed Pikachu and other fuzzy friends a new hairdo and pearls!) What’s new here is Radica has hinted it will be releasing an newer version of the device later this year but no formal announcement has been made.

In my next blog article, I’ll take a look at more technology toys that are intended to get kids moving and active!

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