Disclosure: In return for this review, I received three Littlest Pet Shop toys: a package of mini dolls (2 included), a Digital Pen, and a Virtual Interactive Pet (VIP).
My six-year-old daughter begs me to buy one of Hasbro's Littlest Pet Shop (LPS) toys each time we enter a Wal-Mart, Target, or Toys R'Us. I tell her no, my reason being that I don't want little toys littering the floor. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the mini dolls as these have a magnet contained in one of the feet. This fact I learned when my daughter brought home LPS mini dolls that her friends dropped in her bag at school.
"Oh, alright," I thought. "These aren't so bad." She doesn't leave them on the floor like legos, and everyone knows how bad it hurts to step on one of those blocks. She makes lines of them on her bedside table, shares them with her sister, and trades them like baseball cards with her friends. The two mini dolls we received resemble English sheepdogs (#465 & #466) and make up part of the "Cuddliest" collection. The girls (ages 4 and 6) approve of these, and the magnets in the feet allow these toys to stay on the fridge or on the kids' magnetic bulletin boards. Storing them, important to a mom of three messy children, is easy.
I wanted more from the Digital Pen, as I expected her to be able to draw with it and upload that drawing. Why I had that thought, I don't know. Ridiculously high expectations for a toy? Yes. What this toy does do is function as a ink pen and as a digital pet in the vein of those Tamagotchi toys that drove me crazy when I taught young children. "Leave it at home!" I would silently scream. Eventually, a child would begin crying that its pet would die if I didn't give it back to him/her. It has to be fed! "Oh help." A parent informed me that I had caused the pet to die when I took the digital creature away during a three hour summer camp.
Surely, I did not just give one of those things to my child? Oh, I did, but as she has real pets, she understood that this was a toy. My pride welled when she hit the reset button yesterday so she could begin again. "That's the fun with this, Mom." So, she likes it. The controls are easy, twisting the barrel, moving the cute dog on top. She can play the games. The menu is intuitive. The simple dot matrix graphics don't bother her. Someone who can speak English wrote the instruction book. To be clear, I don't like the toy because children become consumed with taking care of the pet. Some children resist leaving it. Luckily, mine didn't.
Lastly, my four-year-old received the Virtual Interactive Pet, which is a plush toy, complete with overly large head and activation code for the online world at littlestpetshop.com. She cuddles with the plush toy, a cat which she named Tulip, mainly at night, and when we played on the website, the toy sat beside us. Thumbs up on the plush part of the toy.
I like educational games for children for two reasons: 1. they learn something without realizing it, and 2. they learn that learning can be fun and illuminating. The interactive part of the VIP is not composed of learning games. These are hand/eye coordination skills. A thumbs down for my type of parenting. Yet, when the kid plays a game, she earns LPS dollars, which she can then spend for different items.
Perhaps this teaches my child to spend money on rather frivolous items, like a hat or a new collar or the pet's own iPod. That makes me uncomfortable. We are a prosperous family, but we don't spend much on the latest technology. My cell phone is not very small, doesn't play music, and the ringtones won't work on it. I'm not getting a new one, though. The phone works for talking and texting. I don't need more. I'd like to send that message to my children. If I let her play with the web-based interactive toy too much, will she begin to disregard what she notices each day with us? Probably not, but my comfort level is low. However, there is a lesson that money must be earned, not given. So, let's put my comfort level a bit higher.
I'm not the only parent who worries about getting "Financial Tips From Fluffy". Kathleen Deveny wrote about this topic in Newsweek a few weeks back. Follow the link. It will make you think.
Overall, these are cute toys. I'd direct my family to purchase these for birthday gifts, and I will probably allow my girls to buy a mini toy or two with their own money. They do look adorable on our refrigerator.