Rock Out

Sometimes, it’s unclear if a new product is innovative, or just better than its predecessors. In the case of new music-making “toys” from WowWee Robotics, a better approach to a familiar product resulted in something that delivers a lot of fun.

Paper Jamz is a series of faux instruments—guitar, drums and amps—that lets kids pretend they are rock stars. We’ve all seen such electronic instruments; if you have kids, you probably own one. But what’s innovative here is the presentation. The Paper Jamz products are remarkably thin, portable and a joy for kids to play loudly—much to the chagrin of Mom and Dad.

While they are not quite as thin as paper, they are close. Paper Jamz guitars are light and feel as if they might blow away in a strong wind. Yet they are durable, able to take the pounding and abuse a kid can dish out. I know, as my 6-year-old and 3-year-old have been strumming a guitar and pounding the drums for weeks. They have dropped the products plenty, and occasionally swing the guitar around as if they were tiny Pete Townshends.

You play the guitar by touch. Tap or slide your fingers along the guitar’s frets to craft original songs or play along with pre-recorded songs. The commands can be challenging at first, and you need to keep the instructions handy because switching modes is not intuitive.

Frankly, these products are better for older kids who can grasp complex chord structures. My 3-year-old didn’t care, as just strumming the guitar was entertaining enough. But the 6-year-old would get frustrated. Paper Jamz recommends the toys for 8 and up.

Also, I was far more impressed by the guitar than the drums. The guitar looks and, to a point, acts like an actual guitar. The drums, on the other hand, are not drum-like at all. They are small and to use them it’s more like banging your fingers on a computer keyboard than hitting cymbals with a drumstick.

Yet the price points may be the real stars. The guitar (six shapes/styles available) and drum set (six skins, no real difference) cost $25, a reasonable price for a creative and fun-to-use toy. They are starting to arrive at several big-box retailers.

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Seven Days

Seven Days

Thur. 26 The desert is a different place at night, awash in moonlight instead of the merciless sun. If you haven’t experienced it, the Full Moon Hike at Spring Mountain Ranch is your chance. Be sure to bring along a flashlight and water. A park ranger will lead the hike. No pets are allowed. Hikers meet at 7:45 p.m. at the tour gate; admission is $7 per vehicle. Call 875-4141 to reserve your spot.