Kanine Kombat

We have two dogs. The interactive-toy kind, that is.

What do you do when you end up with two of the same kind of toy from two different toy companies? The answer is obvious:


In this corner: He’s big, he’s colorful! Every part of his body is labeled! Iiiiiit’s the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Love to Play Puppy!

(FYI, pictured boy not included.)

In the other corner: He’s smaller, he’s greener! He’s the high-tech puppy! Iiiiit’s the LeapFrog My Pal Scout!



Let’s hear it for both fighters!


OK, fighters, let’s do this. Ready, set, COMPARE AND CONTRAST!


Scout: You can go online and plug in your kid’s name, so when you press the On/Off button on Scout’s left foot, he says, “Hi, [Ham]!” You can also put in your kid’s favorite food, color and animal, which Scout will refer to during play.

Fisher-Price Puppy: No customizable features. His left foot has On/Off, Music and Learning Time options. When you press the On button, he says, “It’s music time!” or “It’s learning time!”

Winner: Scout!



Scout: His voice is a real kid’s voice.

FPP: His voice is done by a woman trying to sound like a child.

Scout: When you press the On/Off to shut him off, there is no sound; it just quietly turns off.

FPP: When you press the On/Off to shut him off, he says a chipper “Bye-bye!”

Winner: Scout!



Scout: When you press his left hand, you get a small selection of songs. If you press his right hand, he tries to get you to practice counting, animals, colors. If you press his right foot, he’ll give you a choice of 10, 5 or 2 minutes of lullaby music. If you press his chest, he yawns, asks for hugs or says a variety of phrases mostly having to do with feelings. Whatever option you choose, Scout will incorporate the name you downloaded. “Good night, Ham,” “I love you, Ham,” etc.

FPP: When you press his left hand, he either identifies a color and/or body part or plays a song, depending on the mode you’ve chosen. When you press his right hand, he plays one of many songs or says one of several phrases such as “Hug me!” or “You’re my friend.” If you press his tummy, he makes sounds, says phrases or sings songs. If you press his heart, he says phrases such as “Hug me!” or “You’re wonderful!” or “You’re my friend” again.

Winner: Scout!



Scout: When he is on but left alone for a while, he barks softly, as if to say, “ahem.”

FPP: When you leave him alone for a while, he says, “I loooove you!”

Scout: In general, he’s a gentle, mellow guy. Hidden volume control gives you the choice of Soft and Softer. When Ham plays with him, I think it’s adorable and sweet.

FPP: In general, he’s an enthusiastic, affirming guy. Hidden volume control gives you the choice of Loud or Are You Deaf? No? Let Me Get You There! When you’re cleaning up and move him, sometimes he’ll suddenly exclaim “You’re wonderful!” or “Can I have a hug?” or some other needy phrase and scare the bejeezus out of you. When Ham plays with him, which thankfully is not often, I wish he’d do so in a different room or different house.

Princess stuff that doesn’t depress me

Two items:

1) Vtech’s Disney Princess Magical Learning Laptop.


I’m torn as to how I feel about this laptop’s looks. On one hand, zoikes! Sensory overload! Tack-o-meter will self-destruct in 5, 4, 3, 2…. On the other, wow, that’s kind of fabulous. Why can’t adults’ laptops be heart-shaped? I wouldn’t mind a mousepad that looked like a big gem.


Nica (4) went gaga over the secret compartment (heart-shaped, bien sûr!) that you open with an attached key. Can you actually fit anything in it? Not much. Maybe a couple of small, flat objects. But this feature definitely appeals to that part of a little girl’s soul that relishes keeping secrets.

There are three major modes: Be a Princess, Princess Activities and Princess Explore. Within those three modes there are games or exercises. Most unfavorite feature: I cringe every time the perky narrator says “Do you dream about being a princess?” In my brain, that gets translated to “Are you a total airhead?” (This only happens when you first press the Be a Princess mode button—but Nica presses it A LOT.) Another annoying feature is the volume control. The designers of this laptop were kind enough to place the volume adjustment underneath the toy (so that your kid isn’t constantly messing with it), but the choices are basically Loud, Louder and Unbearably Loud.

But there are some very good features too. If you go to Princess Activities, you can choose a princess (Cinderella, Belle, Snow White or Aurora). Each princess presents three choices of exercises—letter order, number order, picture match, missing letter, counting, manners (learning appropriate greetings and such), etc. And then, if you choose Princess Aurora, the same voice that said “Do you dream about being a princess?” says “Answer the equation for Aurora.” Equation? Damn, Aurora, I guess you’re the valedictorian of the bunch. So, even though this laptop looks like it would only give you some dumbed-down versions of lessons, it really doesn’t. The lessons range in difficulty from basic letters and numbers (in Princess Explore) to addition and subtraction presented as equations (plus graphics to help out). And the Be a Princess mode mixes it up and gives you an assortment of mini-exercises.

2) This has got to be the ultimate princess sticker book: the Disney Princess Sticker Activity Pad with Play Scenes.


We love stickers around here. Had I gotten this when I was a kid, I would’ve swooned. It is awesome. Pages and pages of stickers, all the Disney princesses in different poses, different outfits, and, in Ariel’s case, different bodies (Ariel with a tail! Ariel with legs!). Plus all the supporting characters of all the princess films. The truly awesome part, though, is the blank play-scene pages. Each page shows a different set (the ballroom from Beauty and the Beast, the forest from Snow White, etc., etc.), and you can create your own unique scene using any stickers you want. Hours of fun. Perfect for Grandma’s house so that Grandma doesn’t have to run around, or when you need your little princess-worshiper to stay quiet for half an hour. Well, maybe not quiet. But occupied.