If you’re a parent during the pandemic — and especially if you’re a Californian parent during the pandemic — your kid probably spends a lot of time watching you driving. Let your toddler loose in the front seat of your car (with the ignition off, please) and they’ll quickly demonstrate how much fun it is to push all the buttons, spin the steering wheel, and honk the horn. The Melissa and Doug Paw Patrol Rescue Dashboard capitalizes on that fascination, allowing your kid to interact with a variety of car-like controls, as well as their favorite Paw Patrol pups.
What You Get
The dashboard itself consists of an angled back with a wooden panel mounted on the front. The use of natural materials like wood is a bit of a Melissa and Doug signature, and the Paw Patrol Rescue Dashboard’s wooden front gives the toy a classic (and classy) feel. The wooden dashboard bristles with buttons. There are buttons for each of the main Paw Patrol pups, a knob that rotates through more minor Paw Patrol characters, a working horn, and a button that records a brief snippet of audio and plays it back. There’s also a police siren button.
The coolest part is a “gear shift” that allows your kid to change from Park to Drive. When they do this, a cylinder underneath the dashboard rotates, creating the impression of a moving GPS map. I love that it feels screen-like, yet there are no actual screens on the product. The movement is an actual movement created by the Victrola-like spinning cylinder.
Above the moving map is a little pretend car. As your child turns the steering wheel on the dashboard, the pretend car moves from side to side above the spinning map. They can either move it at random, or try to keep the pretend car on the map’s “roads” by turning the wheel as the map spins. It’s a really cool and fun activity, especially for a somewhat older kid.
Keeping It Car-Like
There are other car-like features that keep kids entertained, too. To switch the Melissa and Doug Paw Patrol Rescue Dashboard on, for example, they don’t use a normal switch. Instead, they turn an ignition key, which plays a car engine sound before activating the dashboard’s controls. There are other car-like touches, like a turn signal selector behind the steering wheel that illuminates turn signal lights and makes a real turn signal “click click” noise.
These little car-like touches make playing with the dashboard feel a bit like playing in the front seat of a real car, minus the parental challenges of setting all your music and other settings back to normal after your kid has finished playing, and the vague, existential concern that they’ll somehow put your real car into Drive and coast away down the road. Throw in Paw Patrol characters, and the dashboard looks even better.
What Are These Cards For?
For the older set, there are little adventure cards they can place behind the steering wheel. It wasn’t immediately clear to me how to use these. But apparently based on the card you set, the characters you select with the little buttons and the scroll wheel, your kid will get different “mission instructions.” These are spoken by Paw Patrol protagonist Ryder in either English, Spanish or French. Honestly, my kids had been enjoying the dashboard for more than a month before I even learned that the cards did this. Maybe this is a cool feature for some kids, but really the biggest appeal of the dashboard is just playing with all those cool dials and levers.
One nice thing is that because the dashboard is angled and doesn’t contain small pieces, it’s something that even a very small kid can enjoy. Your just-sitting baby of 6–9 months will love sitting in front of the dashboard and mashing the buttons, even if they haven’t learned about the glory of Paw Patrol yet. That makes the dashboard a great toy to encourage sitting up, since all those buttons and lights will encourage your younger kid to sit up for longer and keep playing (just watch that they don’t face plant into the wooden front panel).
Overall I really like the Melissa and Doug Paw Patrol Rescue Dashboard. I wouldn’t stress out about the cards, and instead would advise just playing with it for what it is — a cool car-like dashboard with great sounds, and enough Paw Patrol enhancements to keep young fans occupied.
Visit CaliforniaDadReviews.com for more reviews and for details on how to buy your own Melissa and Doug Paw Patrol Rescue Dashboard.