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.