I am often asked if high-tech toys are better than traditional ones. When tech enhances the play/learning experience it is a plus, but too often it gets in the way of the value of toys. The classic example of this is the electronic versions of Monopoly versus the game I grew up with as a kid. One of the biggest benefits of traditional Monopoly is the experience kids get learning how to make change; let your child be the banker and you're giving a stealth math lesson. In the electronic versions the change is handled electronically, robbing kids of the opportunity to learn.
Here are three modestly tech-enhanced toys that don't overwhelm the play experience in a way that might swamp a child's imagination.
Spinmaster Paw Patrol, Movie Ultimate City 3ft. Tall Transforming Tower (Spinmaster $129)
If you have a Paw Patrol fan in your house this mammoth set will be a literally huge hit and provide excellent opportunity for kids to spin their own Paw Patrol stories. There are some electronic components to spice things up, particularly some elements that light, but the bulk of the fun comes from children playing the part of Chase and his rescue friends in the HQ. You get one vehicle and six action figures. 3 and up.
Hot Wheels City Robo T-Rex Ultimate Garage (Fisher-Price $99)
My brother and I were big Hot Wheels collectors, and the gravity powered sets continue to provide opportunities for children to use their imagination and learn a bit about physics at the same time. Some sets are more open-ended than others; this one's predefined tracks are literal closed loops, but there setting provides opportunities for imaginative play. The large toy garage provides storage for up to 100 vehicles, two elevators and a spiral track that has death defying jumps and even a T-rex that threatens to swallow your cars. Since a big part of the attraction is the the roof for storage, this set will be of biggest appeal to kids who already have a substantial fleet of Hot Wheels vehicles.
Hess Cargo Plane and Jet (Hess $95)
Did you see the Bond film where the 007s fly a plane out of the back of a cargo plane. Well, Hess might have had the idea first, judging from this set that has the perfect mix of tech and self-propelled play. The cargo plane is festooned with light up engines and navigation lights, while the fight it holds within has a number of built in sounds.