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Amy Iverson: Tech toys every kid will love

Everybody wants to give that gift that wows. Leave it to toymakers to use technology to bring some old favorites up with the times.

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Everybody wants to give that gift that wows. Leave it to toymakers to use technology to bring some old favorites up with the times.

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When it comes to presents this Christmas, you can’t go wrong with tried and true brands that deliver big smiles every time. But companies have given the old favorites like race cars, Play-Doh, lightsabers and teddy bears some hi-tech upgrades.

Hot Wheels knows that kids have been arguing for decades over whose car is the coolest. Talk around the race track is all about which car is fastest, can go the longest and performs the best jumps. So the toy company is now making it super easy to track all of these stats with Hot Wheels id.

Each vehicle has a unique ID with its own data that kids can keep organized on a free app. The Hot Wheels id app will store basic info like a car’s design and release date as well as performance details for every car in your collection. It has a racing game with more than 500 races and kids can level up in the app by playing with their physical vehicles on the new Smart Track.

The first component of the track is the Race Portal. Use it to scan Hot Wheels id cars into the app and it will keep track of usage and stats on the digital track or the physical track. The sleek orange and black design has more than 50 layout options and comes with a booster that can get a car going 900 mph (at scale). A great feature is that these track pieces can connect to classic Hot Wheels track pieces for tons of racing options. The app will record every lap, every jump landed and every loop and curve your car takes.

The Smart Track Kit is for ages 8 and older and is only available at Target, Amazon and Apple with Amazon showing the best price right now at $157. Apple has some exclusive Hot Wheels id vehicles, though, including the Darth Vader Racer for just $7.

Kids have been playing with toy lightsabers since the first Star Wars movie premiered in the late ’70s. Over the years, toymakers have added different sounds and lights, but now kids can use the free Lightsaber Academy app to truly train like a Jedi.

The Star Wars Academy Interactive Battle Lightsaber allows kids to choose a master and become Jedi and Sith apprentices excelling in lightsaber combat skills. All sorts of measuring devices in the hilt of the lightsaber track the angle, speed and accuracy of users’ moves, helping players get their technique just right.

The app gives users training missions, allows them to duel against different Star Wars characters or even battle friends who have their own smart lightsaber. It’s only available at Walmart or Amazon priced at $38 and is recommended for ages 6 and older. When it comes to lightsaber acumen, remember training is key. There is no Luke without Yoda.

Play-Doh is coming to the digital world with the Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio. Kids ages 3 and older can make a creation out of Play-Doh and then bring it to life with the Play-Doh Touch app. Little ones simply place whatever they’ve molded onto the Shape to Life Studio and then scan it with a phone or tablet.

The creation comes to life in an animation on screen. Kids can continue to create and add characters to their digital world and save them online to play with any time. Sets are available on Amazon right now for under $15.

Lastly, the teddy bear has been on quite the journey from simple stuffed animal to the robotic Teddy Ruxpin of the ’80s to the latest iteration of a favorite snuggle partner. Check out furReal Cubby, the Curious Bear Interactive Plush Toy for an adorable, expressive playmate for your little one. The bear wants to be picked up, will hug you back, dances and even plays peek-a-boo. He talks in a cute babble and has more than 100 sound and motion combinations.

Cubby has a handy nighttime mode which means he gets sleepy, closes his eyes and plays soft music for five minutes. This interactive teddy bear is available pretty much everywhere for between $75 and $80.

All of these toys provide kids with the type of play they know and want, but give them a techie twist. Toy companies have figured out there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. But there’s no harm in taking that wheel everybody loves and kicking it up a digital notch.