February 16, 2006 12:07 PM PST
Technology infiltrates toyland
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As an entire generation of today's kids grows up playing with their parents' cell phones and iPods, it shouldn't be shocking that they'd be just as into gadgets as mom and dad.
At the American International Toy Fair in New York City this week, the toy industry showcased their newest items for the toy buying season. Not surprisingly, many of those toys were loaded with technology. Some were fantastic, while others seemed like they'd just suck the creativity out of kids.
Let us begin with the coolest of the kid's tech toys.
My favorite toy that will be coming out this year is Fisher-Price's Kid-Tough Digital Camera.
For the past two Christmas seasons, I've actually been on the hunt for this exact toy. When my nephew was 5 years old, I let him play with my digital camera at Thanksgiving. He loved being able to take pictures of the family (and the Batman blow-up doll we bought him at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade). He was absolutely fascinated by the pictures he had just taken as they appeared on the little LCD screen.
Because he wasn't "wasting" my precious film, I let him fill up the 256K memory card. And even though I ended up with about 75 pictures of Batman in various poses, I'm proud to declare that the kid has talent. Many of the pictures he took were better than my own.
When I looked for a kid-appropriate camera to buy him for Christmas that year, there wasn't anything available. A lot of companies make digital cameras for kids, but most don't have LCD screens. Where's the fun in that?
The Kid-Tough Digital Camera from Fisher-Price is the first digital camera that is rugged and easy enough for even preschoolers to use. With rubber grips on the sides, the camera looks like one of the old Viewmaster Viewers I had as a kid. It includes a 1.3-inch backlit color LCD preview screen. It will be available this summer and costs about $70.
Another very cool toy from Fisher-Price is the Digital Song and Story Player. This MP3 player comes with a handful of preloaded songs and stories. With a little help from mom and dad, kids can plug the player into a computer with a USB cable and load music and stories onto the player, just like they would with an iPod.
Fisher-Price has also designed an iTunes-like Web site where parents (or kids, if they can get their little hands on a credit card) can buy toddler-appropriate songs and stories. Headphones are limited to a certain decibel-level to protect tiny eardrums. The player will be available in stores this summer for $70.
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