Best toys at CES 2013

CES is a toybox for adults and children alike. We look at five smart toys for techy tiny tots

Remember when you were a kid, and all you needed was an empty box and a lot of imagination? The hours you would spend playing Box Boxington: Boxventurer Boxtrordinaire? Thankfully, today’s children don’t have to put up with such rubbish. Here are five of the best toys currently on the CES show floor.

There is nothing your shiny new iPad likes better than having child spit smeared all over its screen, like a dirty protest for toddlers. Luckily, Fisher Price has expanded their Apptivity range, where toys interact with child-friendly iPad apps.

With the Little People Apptivity Barnyard (ages 1.5-5, US$40), tykes can play farmer without having to get up early or whinge about EU subsidies. Using the tablet as an interactive playmat, the app recognises whether they are playing with a tractor, farmer or animal. Thus the cow can be fed by tapping a plastic bundle of hay, while the tractor motors around the countryside like it was Grand Farm Auto. Next up is the mighty Imaginext Apptivity Fortress (ages 3-7, US$50), where an iPad is clicked into an impressive plastic castle. Children guide their miniature knight through its echoing halls, fighting villains and shooting trolls with the built-in cannon. Cleverly, the iPad’s camera inserts the child’s own home and family into the game, meaning they can behead their little sisters without mum getting annoyed. Think of it as a child-friendly Game of Thrones. Both playsets will be available this autumn.

Image: Reuters

Disney has teamed up with DreamPlay to bring some of their beloved animated characters into the real world. Much like Sony’s Wonderbook, an app recognises special toys, causing the cartoons to explode into life on the screen. On display at CES is a set of bongos that, when scanned, summons Sebastian from The Little Mermaid. At last, a chance to meet everyone's favourite bongo-playing, reggae-loving crab.

Lego has always let the imagination run wild, allowing children to build everything from spaceships to plastic-studded monsters wrenched from their darkest nightmares. With the next generation of Mindstorms, things have taken a turn for the dystopian. More intelligent than ever, the robotics kit is now compatible with iOS and Android. Worryingly, it includes instructions for building a terrifying scorpion that hunts prey, or a robotic snake that “slithers, shakes and strikes”. Priced at US$349.99, Lego Mindstorms EV3 will be released in the second half of this year.

Finally, after all that overstimulation, comes a toy designed to give children (or adults) Jedi-like focus. The Puzzlebox Orbit is a spherical, thought controlled helicopter. The harder you concentrate, the higher the Orbit flies. It demands a clear mind to keep it airborne, so presumably you can’t have too much fun. Meanwhile, should your girlfriend dump you while you are wearing the headset (perhaps because you play with toys), expect a Hindenburg-style crash.

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