1. Little Amadeus
With everything present and correct, this unfolds into a perfect scale model of a mini grand, complete with matching stool. It certainly looks the part, though we doubt the young Mozart would have inspired much more than a headache if he’d learnt on this: the keys are stiff, and the functions surprisingly limited given its outward promise. Most annoying of all is an ongoing hiss that all but drowned out our performance – most off-putting and terribly rude. It’s difficult to imagine Elton John putting up with that kind of reception. Granted, it’s just a toy, but even the most playful child will tire of the undesirable wind-tunnel effect before too long.
Available from Toys R Us, Festival City (04 206 6552) Dhs379
2. Fun Years
The snap-on microphone stand is the obvious bonus here, and, if you’ve reared your child properly, they’ll soon dispense with the keyboard, assume the time-honoured posture, and do a Freddie Mercury up and down your landing. Actually, this is the best of the bunch, with plenty of well-sampled sound effects and a nicely responsive keyboard. There are even enough preset beats here to start your own disco. Be warned, though, the Fun Years keyboard is a trill beast, and you’ll soon find there’s no escaping the three demo presets which will drill into your skull and leave you miserable, but your kid very happy.
Available from Toys R Us, Festival City (04 206 6552) Dhs199
3. ASDER Multi-Laptop Performer
Not so much a keyboard as a child’s laptop that comes with a piano function. As far as the computer goes, it has plenty going on to keep the kids entertained. With alphabet and numerical games galore, it’s certainly the most education-oriented model here. If nothing else, it’ll give your child a sense of belonging when you and your partner bring work home and sit behind your laptops all evening. The piano function leaves a lot to be desired, however, with very little in the way of sound options and the annoying habit of only sounding out one note at a time.
Available from The Toy Store, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 2473) Dhs149
4. ELC Superstar Cool Keyboard
Looking more like the flight deck on the Starship Enterprise than a keyboard, this little monster packs a funky visual punch. Bright red, with plenty of fake chrome, it even comes with a super-hip ’50s-style microphone that’ll turn the Elvis wannabes loose. But that’s where the celebrations come to an end. As with all of these products, the batteries are difficult to get to, meaning that every four or five hours it becomes an annoyance for all concerned. The keys are too wide for little fingers, and the response time is so slow they could be a fully grown adult by the time the sound materialises. Over all, there are better kids keyboards on the market.
Available from the Early Learning Centre, Spinneys Centre (04 394 1204) Dhs349
5. Carry Along Keyboard
This dinky box of delights falls partway between instrument and ghetto-blaster, with its carry-along handle and collection of pulsating demos. Despite its girly looks, this machine has attitude. The four drum pads produce the kind of lo-fi audio fug that the Beastie Boys have spent millions perfecting over the last two decades, and the organ tones would have Bach rocking the casbah, if the Clash hadn’t got there first. The only downside is the extremely limited multi-timbre spec (you can’t produce a chord of more than two notes at once), which means that it’s really only useful for one-note wonders.
Available from the Early Learning Centre, Spinneys Centre (04 394 1204) Dhs109