Playskool Alphie is either a descendant or a reincarnate, or most probably a reintroduction of the original educational toy robot from 1978. Back then, Playskool was the first brand to introduce an electronic learning toy aimed specifically at preschool children. The newer Alphie is a much livelier and expressive robot with added educational capabilities including letters, math skills, special reasoning and cause and effect.
Still, there’s much romance for the original toy that lasted into the early 1980’s. It was clunky with the quintessential late 1970’s colors, plastic hand levers, a smiling monotone face and packaging artwork that glamorized computers and programming. The original Playskool Alphie is now a true vintage toy and a collector’s item - fetching nearly $80 on eBay for a roughly boxed Alphie.
In both incarnations, the story of Alphie is that he is an explorer from another planet currently out on a field trip visiting planet Earth. His mission to explore the world allows him to absorb and retain vast mathematical, language and reasoning information while possessing a strong desire to speak about them with children and sharing his knowledge.
The new robot is very cute and can currently be found for about $30 from various places including amazon with free shipping and Toys R Us. Others are starting to price it higher as the holidays approach, into the mid $30’s, but will probably be down to about $30 in general.
Alphie comes with a set of 30 double sided educational cards that act as the bar coded software for each lesson, and additional Alphie Booster Packs can be bought for about $10 a set. The 3 required AA batteries are included, and the recommended age is three and up, though I imagine that our little 21 month old girl will be anxious to play with her brother’s toy robot when she sees it.
Unlike the original’s monotone smile, the upper portion of Alphie’s face is an LED screen programmed to make interesting facial expressions, while his mouth is at a constant smile that occasionally lights up with a blue light. The handle on top of his head makes it easy to carry and the lights up and down the sides are inviting and should be fun for kids to learn.
My wife bought this as a Christmas gift for our 3 ½ year old son, and since the holidays have not yet arrived, I’ll post again with updates on how the kids reacted to the Playskool Alphie educational toy robot. In the meantime, I had a chance to unwrap it and prepare for gifting, and have to say that I expect the kids will really love it. Stay tuned for updates on this great toy robot!
kids-toys-parents-love edit: It's been almost two years since we gave this to our son, and he has fully enjoyed playing with his Playskool Alphie. It was ignored for a short while until his younger sister found Alphie and started playing with him. Luckily, the batteries last long, and even though the cards get roughed up a bit, they still work. He was able to learn a few things from it, but our daughter was the one who truly fell in love with Alphie, laughing with him, enjoying his lessons, and becoming a part of her little toy group. Just recently, our son brought him as part of an audience member to the premier screening of our Kids-Toys-Parents-Love-TV promo! Two years later and counting, Alphie is still a loved member of our gang!