September 22, 2008

Toys are Electric

Do you remember the toys you had when you were growing up? If you're my age or older, they were probably wooden, and didn't require batteries. Fast forward thirty odd years and my son, who is about to turn three has the most wonderful array of toys. For better or worse, the ones he loves the most all need power, and they're powered by electronic chips that put some early computers to shame.

Lots of manufactures make toys that flash and beep but only some do it in the right combination that capture your child's attention.

Leap Frog as an example, make a range of toys for children aged from 12 months to 9 years. Their claim to fame is called the Tag Reading System ($99) and it has just been awarded Toy of the Year.

Your child uses what looks like a large green stylus to tap on any part of a special Tag story book. They can tap on pictures or words to make the pen start speaking. Each book (there are over ten in the range and they cost $21) tells a story and has games they can play using the Tag pen, which works by reading a set of invisible dots that have been printed on the books.

While Leap Frog focuses on educational toys, another company called WowWee designs and develops 'hi-tech' consumer robotic products. The WowWee range has everything from a robotic junkyard dog built from discarded mechanical and electrical parts, called 'Wrex the Dawg' to the popular 'Robosapien', a fully programmable remote control robot that walks and even talks in fluent international 'caveman' speech.

WowWee also produce a range of flying robots called Flytech. As you'd expect, there's a flying robot for everyone, from a Flytech Bat, to the Bladestar, an indoor helicopter with sensors that make sure your kids don't fly it into walls or ceilings.

My wife keeps telling me nothing's a substitute for an old fashioned story book, but by the look on my sons face when he plays with these toys, I reckon she's dreaming.

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