I admit that I’m not up to date on the latest characters that kids are into these days. We don’t have cable any more, and my oldest daughter is more into crafting and gymnastics than TV. And the baby? Well. She’s still a baby. But if there’s one character I have loved ever since Ja’Naya was a toddler, it’s Dora the Explorer. First, there’s the obvious: I love multicultural characters on kids TV because it’s a great example of the diversity of real life. But also, I’ve always loved the idea that my kids could learn even a little Spanish from watching Dora.
In spite of the fact that my mother is Puerto Rican, I do not speak Spanish. Sad, but true. I speak a little and understand a little more, but I am far from bilingual. The bilingual nature of Dora and her friends and family means that kids will start to learn another language in their play, and that makes me happy.
So when I was asked to try the new Dora and Friends toy line, available at Walmart and Walmart.com, I couldn’t wait to let my girls dig in. Want to see it for yourself? Check out this video review of the toys.
Talking Dora & Smartphone
Realistically, it’s really difficult to keep electronics out of kids’ hands these days. Even baby Juliza tries to snatch our phones whenever she spots an opportunity, and Ja’Naya even takes her phone to school to use with the “Bring Your Own Device” program. So I think it’s really cool that Dora has made some modern upgrades â€” and her infamous Map is now “Map App.”
The Talking Dora doll, priced at $29, talks when you push the buttons on her dress, and she actually has conversations with her friends via the phone. Dora can ask a question and the phone responds, or vice versa.
Even Ja’Naya, who is sort of past the age for whom this toy is intended, couldn’t help playing with the phone all day. It was cool so listen to the conversations back and forth, and realistically, it’s easy to imagine playing with doll and phone separately. Because the baby loved the phone, but the doll didn’t seem quite as interesting to her.
Still, this is a great option for a kid who loves Dora, or who loves interactive toys.
Arco Iris Cafe and Playa Verde Cabana
I’ve always been a fan of imaginative play sets that don’t necessarily DO anything, but challenge kids to play creatively. The Arco Iris Cafe, $15, and Playa Verde Cabana, $12.50, are great examples. They’re simply locations where the tiny Dora & Friends dolls can have adventures.
The two-story cafe does light up with a little music, and it comes with two chairs and a table for the dolls to use. The Playa Verde Cabana features a cute little beach shop, a lifeguard tower, beach chair and hammock. Both sets come with a tiny Dora doll, but you can purchase Dora’s friends separately. Which leads me to another cool feature of these toys.
Each Dora doll comes with a charm bracelet and interchangeable charms based on each character’s interests. Kids can exchange the charms or switch them out, and the charms also interact with the smartphone. This is the part that will keep kids coming back for more, I think.
While we’ll definitely have to keep the tiny charms out of baby Juliza’s reach because they’re small enough to swallow and therefore not recommended for kids under the age of 3, she’ll have a great time with Dora and her special phone, and Ja’Naya will get endless hours of play out of the smaller play sets. Plus I know she’s eager to find out which of her friends has charms so she can trade.