Interactive Toys for Toddlers

The holidays may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean the end of the gift-giving season… There are birthdays, equinoxes, rainy days, and plenty of duplicate gifts to return. But what to get for the discerning tot in your home? Here are some of the top interactive toys for the toddler set that will keep kids entertained—and are fun for mom and dad too.
baby butterscotch pony from hasbro and furrealFurreal Friends Baby Butterscotch, My Magical Show Pony (Hasbro). This new addition to Hasbro’s Furreal Friends line is the most animated and responsive yet. Scratch Butterscotch’s head and she’ll nuzzle your hand, talk to her, and she’ll respond with the pony equivalent of cooing. Feed her a carrot and she’ll make happy crunching sounds. Brush her fur, and she’ll love you forever. Baby Butterscotch is a fun intro to owning a real pet—she even snores at the end of a long day of play. Carrot and brush included. Ages 4 and up.

Interactive Story Buddies from HallmarkInteractive Story Buddies (Hallmark)
Bigsby, the shy monster, likes to go on big adventures and learn new things with his friends. He—along with the other Story Buddies—speak up when they hear certain words. Those words can be delivered by mom or dad, your child, or even the narrator in the iPod/iPad app. Each Story Buddy comes with a book and a read-along CD, free downloadable apps, and a host of other interactive features on line. You can also buy more books, which continue Bigsby’s adventures. The books gently teach social skills, such as friendship. But what we think is far more important, they encourage parents to snuggle up and read with their children. And that’s priceless. Ages 2 and up.

Super Grover (Playskool)
super groverThe Sesame Street Flying Super Grover Plush toy is a lot of fun for fans of Sesame Street.  Parents can explore the world with their child as they help Super Grover investigate and solve problems on earth and beyond. He’s not only cute (in that monstery sort of way) and a good playmate, he can also help your child learn empathy and social skills by teaching him or her about different countries and cultures, and how kids can help others and their communities. For high-flying fun, just the right message for your pre-K and K children, delivered by a friendly face they know and love, Super Grover will be a year-round hit. His preloaded songs, motorized motion, cool flying sounds, and vocabulary of absurd Grover-ish phrases will keep your kiddo entertained long after the thank-you notes are written (you do have your kids write thank you notes, right?) Ages 2-5.

FURBY (Hasbro)
FURBY, HasbroFurby, one of the first robotic pets, was born in 1998 and immediately became the must-have toy of that year. Those first Furbys talked to and interacted with their human playmate, “learning” depending on the level of the child’s interaction and time spent together. The newest generation does much the same, but instead of being simply action-reaction (child says something, Furby responds), these Furbys add an emotional component and a touch of attitude. So if your Furby doesn’t like music and you play it anyway, she’ll get aggravated and yell. Continue ignoring her needs and she’ll get even angrier. It’s amazing how much this little fluffy ball of circuits, motors, and screens can mimic an actual pet. Don’t be surprised if next year’s model includes a real litter box. Ages 6 and up.

Baby in the washing machine? Seemed like fun at the time

We’ve all had moments–particularly after a really big diaper blow out–when we wished we could just toss the baby into the washing machine. Most of us smile and then get back to the cleanup. But every once in a while, some complete idiot actually does put a child into a washing machine.

And that’s exactly what a dad in an Indianapolis laundromat did, thinking it would be kind of funny. Meanwhile, mom stands there watching the whole thing.

Unfortunately, the machine’s automatic lock kicked in and as the washer starts to fill with water, the parents panicked (could have been worse, I suppose–they could have just left), and tried frantically to pry open the door.  [Read more…]

Pacifiers, sippy cups, and bottles might not be as harmless as you’d think

When manufacturers stopped making pacifiers that could break apart and a lot of people switched from glass bottles to plastic (BPA-free, of course), we thought the big dangers were gone. Maybe not.

Proving my theory that babies and toddlers are constantly searching for new ways to scare the hell out of their parents, a new study comes out showing that an average of 2,270 children under three are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for injuries involving pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups (the majority are one-year olds).  According to the study, which looked at ER data for the past 20 years, two thirds of the accidents involved bottles and 86 of the injuries involved falling down. In 14.3% of cases, the culprit was the seemingly harmless sippy cup.

Binkies, bottles and sippy cups: Handle with care

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Stay with Me!

Dear Mr. Dad: My 3-year old has been going to the same daycare for 8 months, but he’s still anxious and nervous every time I drop him off. I know that young children can have anxiety problems about unfamiliar places and people, but hasn’t this gone on long enough?

A: I remember dropping off my oldest daughter (now 22) on her first day at daycare, and how hard it was to say goodbye and leave her in the care of people who couldn’t possibly love her as much as I did. And I still remember how she cried and didn’t want to let me go. She got over it within a few days (although it took me a lot longer), and most kids will do the same. But unfortunately, when it comes to separation anxiety, there’s no way to tell you what’s normal and what’s not.

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Wandering Toddler

My year-old child has begun to climb out of the crib at night. I am concerned she will get into something and hurt herself. I worry so much about her at night, I can’t sleep. How do I keep her safe?

Start by thinking about her environment in larger and larger circles, from the crib to the door. First, the crib. There get rid of all those bumpers (those oh-so-cute fabric pads that used to protect your baby from banging her head against the inside of the crib). Bumpers make great stepping stones for climbers. Also, take all those big stuffed animals, pillows, and heavy comforters out of the crib. These items were dangerous as suffocation hazards when your baby was small. Now that she’s bigger, they’re tickets to freedom.
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Technology For Toddlers

My husband recently bought a computer for our 18-month old daughter. I think he’s nuts, but he says that it’s never too early to get kids computer literate. I’m concerned that pushing computer literacy at this age will put too much pressure on our child, making her feel like she has to be an over achiever. Is he right or should we wait?

You and your husband have stumbled into one of the 21st century’s parenting hot spots. A lot of parents have some legitimate questions about the sensibility and worthwhileness (and even the danger) of starting kids on computers and/or computerized toys at such an early age. Unfortunately, making the right decision-assuming there is such a thing-is nearly impossible, given the heated debate among academics, software designers, and advocacy groups.
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