Gone are the days when plush was simply a category of stagnant stuffed toys. Kids today can enjoy plush items that sing, dance, play music, light up, talk, and more. With technology moving ever forward, the plush category is seeing new ways to integrate interactive elements into soft products. While mechanized toys aren’t a brand new concept, many companies are producing new items that utilize today’s technologies in ways never seen before.

I’ll be honest—I wasn’t much for animated plush when I was a kid. Maybe it was the fact that interactive items didn’t really do anything cool enough to warrant sacrificing the softness and squeezability of a traditional stuffed animal. Or maybe I didn’t like the fact that you have to change the batteries. Whatever my reasons, I think I would have felt differently about interactive plush if I’d had some of the toys available today.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.50.19 PMPeek-A-Boo Elmo, a licensed Sesame Street item from Gund, holds a cozy blue blanket to play peek-a-boo with kids ages 18 months and up. When kids press Elmo’s foot, he lifts his blanket over his face while saying phrases such as, “Where are you?” and “There you are!” One of the nicest things about Peek-A-Boo Elmo for parents is that by pressing his foot again, he turns off. I also love that he moves his arms up and down fairly quickly, enhancing the surprise factor for little ones. Elmo’s mouth also moves consistently with what he’s saying. Peek-A-Boo Elmo is programmed to say 13 phrases.

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The Magic Fortune Monkey, also from Gund, is like a modern, silly, cute Magic 8 Ball. Kids press the monkey’s hand and ask a yes or no question. When kids press his foot, he responds with one of more than 20 programmed answers, such as “LOL, totes!” “My crystal ball says, NOPE.” or “Maybe, baby!” I like that the answers are in tune with the sayings and slang of today, which is not only amusing, but relates to kids. My favorite thing about the Magic Fortune Monkey is his crystal ball. When first turned on and when kids ask a question, the sparkly silver ball lights up from within, changing colors and playing an enchanting magic charm sound.

Wiki Bear Photo on Couch2-4-14Commonwealth‘s WikiBear, available this fall, connects to the Internet via Bluetooth and lets kids ages 3 and up ask questions, tells jokes, and have conversations. Using voice activation technology, WikiBear finds the answer online and speaks it, much like Apple’s Siri. It also remembers names, likes and dislikes, and more. The more kids interact with WikiBear, the better WikiBear gets to know the child. WikiBear also has parental controls and a bank of thousands of blocked words, so content is always safe for kids.

Demand for interactive plush is steadily increasing as technology enables plush to engage kids in play, or soothe them during sleep. As consumers see what’s possible in electronics, they have come to expect more from plush, so as long as manufacturers maintain the love-ability and comfort of traditional plush, while introducing new elements that enhance the products, I think the interactive plush category will continue to grow and expand.

For more commentary from Christine, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!