bring interactivity to television are popping up for preschoolers,
and it's no surprise. Many parents express concern about the
amount of time their kids spend watching the tube. Certainly, the lure of
television is tremendous for many children.
Two new toy releases
make TV decidedly more interactiveone offers the chance to
interact with DVDs featuring popular characters, and the other
uses the television set as the medium for presenting educational
the television set into a learning system. The colorful V-Smile
unit is a learning game platform that requires learning cartridges
(called Smartridges!). Depending on the cartridges used, kids
learn letters of the alphabet, vocabulary, alphabetic order,
counting, numbers, logic, phonics, addition, and more.
cartridge offers both an adventure mode and a learning game mode.
Kids can choose to play the games within the context of an
exciting adventure, and/or to tackle the games independently of
the adventure. Many of the cartridges feature licensed characters,
such as Winnie the Pooh, Care Bears, Scooby Doo, and Mickey
What is most
impressive about this system is that it offers young children the
chance to play "video games" that are more appropriate
for their developing skills. See our full review of the V
[For more information, user
reviews, or to buy: V-Smile
DVD System by Fisher Price offers kids the chance to watch
specially designed DVDs, featuring popular characters, and
interact along with them in educational ways. The system includes
the hardware itself and a bonus DVD, along with activity cards, a
DVD case, and a kid-friendly remote control.
learning system requires that you own a DVD player. Additional DVD
software titles must be purchased separately. These include titles
featuring Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, Sesame Street, Barney,
and Spongebob Squarepants. Children place the activity card over
the wireless InteracTV controller and answer educational
questions. Over 100 questions are programmed into each DVD, so
children are kept stimulated and enjoy different experiences each
time they watch.
[For more information, user
reviews, or to buy: InteracTV Dvd System
the two? We prefer the V-Smile. Interactivity is limited on
the InteracTV, ironically enough. The V-Smile offers educational
games. They're different systems altogether, with different
functions, but if it comes down to a choice between the two, we
recommend the V-Smile.
Update October 2005:
Now that the new Leapster incarnation of the excellent
handheld learning system can be played on the TV as well as in
portable format, it's our top choice for interactive TV systems. The
Leapster L-Max is your best bet.
Top Pick Last year's Leapster has already been updated. The
Leapster L-Max is a handheld portable unit that mimics
Nintendo's GameBoy, but with important differences that make it
not only more kid-friendly, but exceptionally more educational as
well. The comparatively large screen is also a touch screen, and
kids interact with the games by using a directional pad and an
attached stylus. Game cartridges, available separately, offer
children "edutaining" games that support learning. What's the
main difference between the Leapster and the Leapster L-Max?
Besides a slightly less bulky unit, the L-Max can be played as
a portable or can be plugged into the TV and played on both the
little and "big" screens. The unit is backwards compatible -- the
original Leapster game cartridges can be played on the new unit.
Most of the original games play on both the portable and TV
screens, while some only play on the handheld. Read
our full review of the
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Leapster L-Max]