So adorable, even adults love this interactive tiger that makes more than 100 sounds and movements. Roars, blinks, reacts to a toy, responds when hugged, and more. In addition to being interactive, Ivory is soft and cuddly.
Putting the batteries in place can be a little difficult. Somewhat pricey.
Pencil and tablet fit toddlers’ hands perfectly. Free draw and trace modes available. Teaches letters, numbers and shapes. Offers higher learning level with basic spelling exercises. Built tough enough to handle drops, spills and knocking around.
Tracing and drawing screen is low resolution, not backlit and small. Volume control is minimal, and music can only be turned on or off.
A hit with babies and their parents. Peek-a-boo ears fascinate younger kids and hold up to light play. Singing sounds clear and realistic through the toy’s speaker.
Battery cover could use more Velcro for a stronger close. Only sings one song – over and over. Smaller than some expect.
Easy to assemble and turn on. Chair and table are sturdy and hold up to kids of different ages. Variety of interactive sheets available to change up the learning experience.
Table surface is very touch-sensitive and can go haywire if leaned or rested on. Table legs can be pulled off easily. Desk top does not lock in the “up” position and can fall back down.
Long-term build project with 800+ pieces that fosters a sense of ownership and accomplishment upon completion. Compatible with most iOS and Android devices and can interact with other compatible LEGO sets. Build 5 different models and use app to play with unique features and games.
Some reports of missing pieces, compatibility issues, and could be too time-consuming for some children.
Children love to play. It gives them a chance to unwind, enjoy themselves, and even learn. Play is crucial to a child’s development, as it allows them to do things that are both familiar to them as well as outside their comfort zone. That’s exactly why toys are designed with engagement in mind, especially interactive toys.
Thanks to advances in technology and electronics in the last decade, interactive toys have become multifaceted and have a plethora of features. They rely on the exchange of responses or stimuli between your child and the toy. Stimuli take many forms, from the simplicity of pressing a button to hear a sound to the sophistication of voice-activated commands. Some interactive toys take the term “lifelike” to a new level and utilize facial expressions and body language to bring characters and dolls to life.
The best part of interactive toys is they exist for every age group, so it’s easy to find one that will engage your child for hours of fun. We tapped into our inner child and evaluated the market’s top interactive toys. Now, we invite you to level up your child’s toy collection by reading about them in our buying guide.
The first thing to consider when buying an interactive toy is the recommended age range. The key word is “recommended,” since it’s not unusual for children to be more or less advanced than a toy’s listed range. A great facet of interactive toys is that they allow children to learn at their own pace, offering features and levels to match and develop their skill sets.
Interactive toys follow the same general age group categories and tailor their features to appeal to the intended age range. Models for infants through three-year-olds focus on simple features and exchanges, like a pad with a single button pressed to produce a sound.
For ages three to seven, interactive toys focus on developing critical thinking skills and feature different levels or a collection of activities, like those seen in activity desks.
Interactive toys for children ages seven to ten focus on problem-solving skills, as there is a degree of trial and error involved with achieving a desired response.
Once children are over age ten, they’re independent readers with well-developed communication skills. Interactive toys for this group — which is sometimes broad enough to be for ages ten to 16 — are the most challenging and have sophisticated interactions.
Interactive toys can be enjoyed by a group of children or independently. Those geared toward independent play may have programmable features to follow your voice or unique setups or preferences for just one person.
There are other group-play interactive toys that require multiple players, just like a board game. When it comes to children who want to enjoy independent play models with others like siblings or friends, they have the opportunity to learn the importance of sharing, patience, and taking turns.
Interactive toys are cutting-edge when it comes to engagement and enjoyment, especially those with advanced electronic features. Like other toys, interactive toys overlap in their education and enjoyment value, though some models lean more in one direction than the other.
If your goals are refining skills like fine motor control or problem-solving, aim for more educational interactive toys. These are easy to identify, as their packaging often indicates precisely what skills they develop. Some are even STEM-approved. If you end up buying an interactive toy for pure enjoyment, keep in mind that play is actually a way to learn — your child is picking up information, fostering creativity, and honing skills without even knowing it.
Musical: Musical toys are often educational in nature, using songs to teach basic lessons or the fundamentals of playing instruments. The tunes are lively and short and are often new versions of age-old childhood songs and nursery rhymes.
Vocal: Voice recognition and voice commands have grown in popularity for all kinds of devices, including interactive toys. This feature is often seen in anthropomorphic toys, such as pets or robots with lifelike responses.
The physical design of interactive toys is just as important as their electronic components. Because they’re designed for children, particularly those geared toward fine motor control, there’s a focus on knobs and buttons that are accessible for small hands. Interactive toys for toddlers and preschoolers may offer a variety of textures, shapes, and tension features to teach children how to grip items in different ways.
Models for older children have progressively smaller parts and transition from fine motor control to hand-eye coordination. With these interactive toys, children are challenged to complete certain tasks simultaneously within a set amount of time to achieve the desired response or reaction from the toy.
Certain interactive toys come as a basic set for play with a device and interchangeable cartridges or accessories. The extended product offerings from the toy company may have more options for the same age group, or they may be level- and skill-based for continued engagement. These types of interactive toys grow with your child, and for that reason, they have long-term replay value.
Replay value is always something parents think of when buying toys, especially when spending a premium. Interactive toys are geared toward prolonged use that offers something different during each play session. Even if they only have a select number of features, these tend to be engaging enough for a child to revisit and enjoy.
Interactive toys have quite a broad range, with some as low as $20 and others pushing the $200 mark.
Inexpensive: For budget-friendly models between $20 and $40, you can expect a main area of focus such as learning the alphabet or counting with a handful of modalities and features.
Mid-range: Between $40 and $90 are well-designed toys that lend themselves to more than one type of play or learning. These are also engineered better, with sturdier parts and efficient electronic components.
Expensive: One you reach the $100 to $200 point, you can expect a wide array of interactive features including games, voice capabilities, and even corresponding online platforms and apps.
Invest in batteries. Interactive toys aren’t rechargeable and use up batteries quickly, so purchase in bulk so you always have them on hand.
Keep away from pets. Interactive toys, especially those that are plush and make noises, should be kept far away from pets. A pet could become frightened or even attack the toy.
Wipe surfaces often. Certain interactive toys have flat surfaces, and with a lot of hands-on play, it’s easy to deposit dirt, grime, and germs on them. Wipe them down with a damp cloth while avoiding getting moisture in crevices or between buttons.
Buy large gift bags. Interactive toys can be packaged in large boxes or in ways that are difficult to wrap. Buy large gift bags and tissue paper to prepare your present in no time.
Q. What are some of the perks of getting an interactive toy instead of a tablet for my child?
A. For one, you can find many interactive toys for far less than what you’d pay for a tablet. While interactive toys may be delicate and require care, tablets are far more fragile and can be easily dropped, cracked, or broken by children. Further, interactive toys are very hands-on and engage little hands and learning minds in a three-dimensional way as opposed to a two-dimensional screen.
Q. Can my child travel with their interactive toy?
A. Yes, interactive toys are great to travel with, though some are better suited to car trips and hotel rooms than airplanes or trains. For the most part, they make sounds and have flashing lights that could disrupt a seat mate’s travel experience. If your child insists on bringing it on a flight, pack the toy in your checked luggage to avoid potential issues during transit.
Q. I’m buying an interactive toy as a gift. Should I opt for a gender-specific one?
A. While there are plenty of gender-specific models available, many interactive toys are suitable for both boys and girls. Opt for skills-driven ones with general appeal that incorporate music, art, or science for your best chance at finding the perfect gift.
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