Talking Toys

19 May

The day before yesterday, I felt like buying presents for the kids. It’s not Christmas, it’s not anyone’s birthday, it was just a day when I wanted to pull out surprises for the kids when I got home and see their faces exploding with smiles.

Getting presents for James is easy. There’s just one general guideline to follow: if it has wheels, he’ll love it. When he was younger, it was Thomas the Train. Then it was Hotwheels. And for the last year or so, it’s been Disney’s Cars. The kid has about twenty Lightning McQueens and fifteen Maters, plus a Sally, a Sheriff, a Red The Fire Truck, a Doc Hudson, and all of the other characters, and it’s still not enough. The Cars obsession showed signs of starting to flag a little, but that was before the preview for Cars 2 came out.

And now the toy stores have come out with a whole new line of Cars 2 products. And so I headed straight for the display and picked out a Lightning McQueen (yes, another one) and a Mater (yes, another one). These aren’t just any Lightning and Mater, though. Some previous iterations have had features like the ability to light up or make vroom-vroom noises. These new ones do all of that AND talk!

Buying presents for George is more of a challenge. He doesn’t play with toys in the same way that other kids do. He’s into more cerebral stuff that lets him work with words or numbers, but there are only so many alphabetic fridge magnets and alphanumeric toys that you can buy for one child. The only toy toys that he really likes are Lego blocks and Mr. Potato Head. And again, he has so much of that stuff that buying more would seem like overkill. I mean, his Mr. Potato Head collection fills three large boxes.

But still, there’s always hope that Hasbro has come up with a new Mr. Potato Head character to add to Indiana Jones Taters of the Lost Ark, Darth Tater, and all the rest of them. So I headed over to the Mr. Potato Head section, and to my utter astonishment, I struck gold.

A talking Mr. Potato Head.

This thing is super-cool. You don’t even have to press any buttons to make him talk. He’s equipped with a built-in microphone that picks up on conversation and noises in the room, and he talks back. His repertoire of things to say is surprisingly extensive. An added feature is that when the room is silent, he will say things like, “Can I get some attention around here?” And if you make a sudden loud noise like banging on the table or clapping your hands, Mr. Potato Head’s pieces come flying off.

It’s a fun, fun toy. A bit challenging to have in the room when you’re trying to watch TV because it keeps providing a running commentary, but that’s a minor detail to live with. What’s really fantastic about it is how much George loves it. Getting him a toy that he instantly engages with and has fun with is such a rare experience, and we savour it.

In the meantime, James has fallen in love with his talking Cars cars. He gets them to have conversations with each other (they too, have a decent repertoire).

So things are peaceful in my house right now, with the kids each having cool new toys to play with.

And because of the nature of the toys involved, things are very, very talkative.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiraca/5651863946)

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