Best Interactive Toys

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

9 Models Considered
1 Experts Interviewed
150 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best interactive toys

Last Updated August 2019

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.

To get the most for your money when buying interactive toys, choose one that offers different levels or settings. As your child enhances their skill set, the toy can be adjusted to remain engaging and challenging. It also extends the amount of time your child plays with it.

Key considerations

Age range

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.

Independent vs. group play

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.

For education or enjoyment

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.

Innumerable play options

Children will love engaging with over 100 sound and motion combinations from this model. This lifelike companion even roars back if you roar, so get ready for plenty of laughs, sounds, and conversations. Despite its electronic and mechanical parts, this cuddly little creature has a soft plush exterior, so your child can bring it to bed or on car trips. It’s worth pointing out that this is a fun friend for children who don’t have pets or can’t have them due to allergies.

Features

Sound capabilities

  • 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.

  • Cueing: Pavlov himself would be impressed with the types of cueing seen in interactive toys. Because they’re geared toward independent, unsupervised play, sound cues remind children to progress to the next level or step. These manifest as bells, chimes, or simple musical notes.

Physical design

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.

Add-on capabilities

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

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.

EXPERT TIP

Obtain a syllabus from your child’s teacher to help choose an interactive toy as an afterschool supplement to their daily lessons. It feeds a child’s natural curiosity if they enjoy a particular subject, or it offers a fun alternative way to learn about something in which they’re less interested.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

It’s okay to buy an interactive toy geared toward children older than your child. You can work together to acquaint your child with the features and settings until they’re comfortable with independent play. Children tend to learn up, so a new challenge can foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If your child is ready to learn the alphabet and recognize letters, go for an interactive toy that focuses on reinforcement. Your child can practice pronouncing and identifying letters by sight and sound at their own pace. Some models even have advanced cueing for verbal practice, such as bells or chimes.


Staff  | BestReviews

Interactive toy prices

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.

Next-gen fun

Your child will love this next-gen interactive handwriting and spelling toy. Designed like a kid-friendly tablet, this model features an alphabetical button board and screen for a focused, fun approach to making visual connections with words and numbers. It even has a connected writing instrument on a lanyard called Mr. Pencil so you never have to worry about losing it.

Tips

  • 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.

  • Manage expectations. Some interactive toys are educational, where others are not. Before making your purchase, decide whether learning or play is the purpose of the toy — some models combine the best of both worlds.

Other products we considered

The World of Eric Carle Around the Farm Play-a-Sound book is another great choice. Fans of Carle’s vibrant art watch it take on new life with over 30 different sounds for a multi-sensory experience. Although it’s geared toward ages three to seven, this interactive board book is a fun storytime tool for babies and toddlers. The book itself is has a firm cover, and the pages are sewn in securely, so it’s designed for many reading and play sessions.

If you’re looking to bring Star Wars to life for your children, Star Wars Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie Interactive Plush has over 100 sound and motion combinations. Chewie speaks Wookiee and certainly behaves like one, with arms and facial expressions that move to fully engage, respond, and interact with children. The fur makes it soft enough to sleep with, so this Chewie is a loyal companion and copilot day or night.

Some interactive toys come with different language settings. This is a fun way to develop second language skills and cultural knowledge outside of traditional language classes.

FAQ

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.

The team that worked on this review
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    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
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    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
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    Devangana
    Web Producer
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    Eliza
    Production Manager
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    Katherine
    Editor
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer
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    Steph
    Web Producer
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    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

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