.The culture of toys and play has been permeated with digital and electronic technology, over the last decade. Each year, the toys and games we played with as kids, need to be revamped, remodeled and renewed to adapt to this trend or they simply fade away. Imagination and creativity are still high priorities, but they are enacted on a whole new playing field and our kids are expert at them. Even many toddlers are comfortable, and even proficient, playing with cell phones, tablets, computers or electronic gaming systems. To shop for Christmas gifts, or really, to make any toy purchase, we grownups need to understand these new trends.
One of the most popular mergings of conventional toys with digital or electronic technology, in our home, is a brand of stuffed animals known as Webkinz. Webkinz are stuffed, plushy toys, just like the stuffed animals we grew up with, but the twist is that they come with a special code that allows kids to enter their virtual world online and interact with the stuffed “pet”, digitally. They can play games, purchase accessories with their winnings from the games, dress them up and train them — even build them homes and yards. So, today’s kids get to cuddle with their stuffed animals, at bedtime, and then experience them as “live” digital pets, when they are awake. It’s a phenomenon that has not lost it’s appeal with our ten-year-old daughter and 4- and 5-year-old granddaughters. They love Webkinz!
When we received our Webkinz Rockerz poodle and Webkinz rainbow platypus to review, the squeals and giggles could probably be heard all up and down our block. Our daughter, granddaughters, and even the next-door neighbor, had difficulty containing their enthusiasm and excitement. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on them and to get everything set up online. There were a couple of different online options to investigate.
Interestingly enough, we discovered that Webkinz has added a Facebook game to their offerings. I wouldn’t say I was as enthusiastic about that, and I’m not sure about it making good marketing sense. I don’t allow my daughter or granddaughters on Facebook. Facebook doesn’t even allow kids to have an account until they are 13. I know that lots of people just let their kids lie and create the account, but that’s not the way we operate, here. I went in and looked around in the game, myself, and honestly, it’s like every other Facebook game. You’re building a city (Kinzville) by adding houses, businesses, community buildings, roads, etc. The only difference is that the characters are Webkinz toys. Much of what can be added costs actual money and to really make the game work, you need to bother your Facebook friends and get them to play along. This aspect of the Webkinz offerings was definitely not for our family.
Webkinz World, the online virtual space created for interacting with Webkinz “pets”, is more my family’s speed. The kids don’t have to interact with anyone else, to play the games, and there are a variety of activities and games to participate in. The first thing our daughter did, after logging on, was to register both pets in the virtual world, give them names and print out adoption certificates. Then she checked out the games, played a quiz or two, got an outfit for her poodle and expanded her Webkinz house to give each new pet their own room . The more Webkinz cash she earns in the games and puzzles, the more decorations and accessories she can purchase for her virtual pet and its home. Our five-year-old granddaughter moves through this virtual world very easily, as well.
There’s one more way to interact with Webkinz — Webkinz Friends for the iPad. Kids can interact within the same virtual world using an iPad running iOS 4.2 or later. The benefit for us is that one of the kids can be playing online and the other on the iPad.
With Christmas coming, so quickly, Webkinz may be toys that someone you love is hoping you know about. There’s the good ‘ol cuddle factor that OUR generation knows and loves, plus the addition of digital technology to enhance the experience. The kids really DO love them and they will make great gift options with tons of variety for all the animal lovers on your list. It’s easy to find more information, locate a store near you that carries them and check out the latest news and promotions on Twitter and Facebook, so you never miss a deal. They even have a Holiday Gift Guide to help introduce you to the available pets!
I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Webkinz. I received a product sample and a promotional item to thank me for participating. A positive review was not required. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the products.