Holiday toys for kids: Tech is top

Don't waste your money

(WXYZ) - Hannah, Ben and Ellie Mayfield are all under eight, and all about high tech toys.  Their mom, Megan, sees it as a sign of the times.

"They've been surrounded by these toys since they were born, and to them it's just another thing to play with in the playroom," Mayfield said.

"My favorite gadget is my tablet," Hannah said.

Laurie Schacht of The Toy Insider says tablets still top many wish lists this year.  And they're loaded with more options than ever.

With the Innotab 3s with kid connect technology...

"Kids can actually talk to their parents on their device," Schacht said.  "They can send a text message, they can send a picture."

The Kurio Touch 4S is similar to an iPod Touch, but runs on an Android operating system.  It offers parental controls, and comes preloaded with more than 30 free games and apps, and earbuds built for a child.

CNET's Dan Ackerman explains technology in toys goes way beyond tablets, though.

"We see a lot of toys aimed at kids now that echo a lot of the technology that adults use so things have touch screens, things have internet connectivity.  Kids kind of want to mimic what their parents are doing," Acherman said.

"We're seeing all this technology appear in toys for our youngest children, and it's really giving them the skills they need both for school and eventually for every day life, but in a fun way," Schacht said.

It's called edutainment and it ranges from the new LeapReader that is designed to help teach toddlers to write, to Zoomer, a dog that responds to voice commands, Robo-Me, which lets you use your iPhone or iPod Touch to customize the Robot, and Lego Mindstorms Robots that could be training future computer programmers,

"Once they built it, they have to program the whole robot, how it walks, how it talks, every movement is programmed," Schacht said.

Future fashionistas can create cool looks on the Barbie Digital Dress using L-E-D lights...and the facial tracking technology on the Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror will have young faces smiling. 

"By simply pretending to put makeup on with the applicator, the makeup with show up in the mirror the kids are looking at," Schacht said.

Augmented reality plays a major role in toys like the Skylanders Swap Force and Disney Infinity,

"Whatever they create in the real world will jump to life on the screen in the virtual world for them to play," Schacht said.

Feel like you might be in over your head with all this tech?  Schacht says it's not as complicated as it might seem.

"Most of the tech toys these days are really pretty intuitive and the kids will probably get it almost right away," Schacht said.

"I feel like I'm learning right along with them.  As they're exploring the toys, sometimes they'll have questions that they ask me and I'll play with the toys too," Mayfield said.

For toys with internet connectivity, Schacht suggests you play with the parental controls to make sure they're set to levels you're comfortable with for your children- limiting what sites they see and what sites have access to their information.

And with all this tech, Schacht also says parents shouldn't forget about a well-balanced toy box, explaining nothing is going to replace the building blocks and construction kits, playing dress up, or that teddy bear that your little one will take to bed.

THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF TOYS USED IN THIS SEGMENT AND DESCRIPTIONS FROM THE COMPANIES, INCLUDING AGE RANGES AND PRICE POINTS:

LeapReader (LeapFrog)

·         LeapReader, is a complete learn to read and write solution for kids.

·         Kids will sound out words and read sentences, learn to write letters with interactive guidance, and listen to audio books, music and more on-the-go.

·         The LeapReader solution includes three essential experiences:

·         Learn to Read: Sounds out words, reads sentences, and lets kids play games and puzzles.

·         Learn to Write: LeapReader helps kids learn the sequence of strokes and practice writing letters and numbers with special LeapFrog Learning Paper.

·         Learn through Listening: Audio books, learning songs and trivia challenges build comprehension skills and vocabulary.

·         A library of 150+ books, workbooks, audio books and more.

·         Available in green and pink and Includes a USB rechargeable battery.

·         Holds audio for up to 40 books or 175 songs.

·         Ages: 4-8

·         MSRP:  $49.99

Innotab 3S (VTech)

• This tablet features an exclusive communication app that allows kids to be connected with parents and friends via tablet-to-mobile and tablet-to-tablet, VTech

Kid Connect.

• It features a kid-safe browser and access to VTech's Learning Lodge app store.

• The tablet includes Wi-Fi and a rechargeable battery

pack that lets kids play for hours of fun learning.

• Educational games teach reading, math, social studies, and science; the media

center plays videos and MP3s.

• InnoTab 3S comes with one year Kid Connect Basic subscription.

• Ages 3-9

• MSRP $99.99 

Zoomer (Spin Master)

·         The more you play with him, the more tricks he will learn

·         Flexible tail for real wagging action

·         Rotational core allows him to fully roll over

·         LED eyes with blinking and tracking capabilities

·         Voice command receiver for intuitive play

·         Chest sensors track objects and know when you're scratching his belly

·         Easy trick button shows you a sneak peek at Zoomer's tricks

·         Hypoallergenic

·         Zoomer Includes 1 Quick Trick Guide (User Instruction Guide)

·         Ages: 5+

·         MSRP:  $99.99

Disney Infinity

  • This is an all-new game that combines Disney's most popular franchises with one of today's hottest trends in toys – interactive figures that come to life in video games.
  • Players can place real-world toy versions of their favorite Disney characters on the Infinity Base and transport them into the virtual game worlds of Monsters University, the Incredibles and Pirates of the Caribbean where they will embark on adventures based in unique locations from these blockbuster films.
  • The best part of Infinity is a giant virtual Toy Box mode where, for the first time ever, kids can combine the characters, locations, gadgets and more from across the Disney universe to create their own personal Disney play experiences.  In this mode, the possibilities are truly infinite.
  • Ages: ESRB 10+
  • MSRP: $74.99 (starter pack)  works with all platforms 

Skylanders SWAP Force (Activison)

·         The latest installment of the Skylanders franchise

·         Features an all-new innovative play pattern: swapability.

·         Players can reconfigure 16 Swap Force characters into more than 250 unique combinations. Kids can mix and match characters' powers and moves and then bring them to life in the game.

·         Fans of the franchise can also play Skylanders Swap Force with their entire collection of characters from both Skylanders Spyro's Adventure and Skylanders Giants, now with the added capability of jumping.

·         Features 16 new SWAP Force characters, along with 32 new core Skylanders characters (16 completely new Skylanders and 16 new versions of fan-favorite characters from previous games) and eight new LightCore characters.

·         Skylanders SWAP Force also delivers high-resolution graphics that bring the game's detailed characters and rich environments to life, immersing players in the gameplay like never before.

·         Age: 6+

·         MSRP: $99.99 (Dark Edition Starter Pack)

Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror (Mattel)

·         Slide an iPad into the vanity frame to create a digital mirror

·         Use the included applicator to apply virtual makeup

·         Select from eye shadow, lipstick, color, and glitter

·         Facial tracking technology keeps the digital makeup in place as the girl moves, as if she is wearing it

·         Girls can create a scrapbook of their favorite makeover looks

·         Age: 6+

·         MSRP: $69.99

Barbie Digital Dress Doll (Mattell)

·         Always wearing the latest fashions from the red carpet to the runway, Barbie Digital Dress doll makes a customizable digital fashion statement, combining fashion, sound-activation and on trend technology.

·         Using the latest LED and touch-screen technology, girls can create and select their own animated digital designs, which appear on Barbie doll's dress.

·         There are three modes of play: choose from ready-to-go graphics like hearts and fireworks, draw custom designs, and watch designs respond to sound and music. 

·         Barbie doll's black dress uses a 4.5 square inch resistive touch panel and 114 tri-color LEDs.

·         The runway has never shined brighter.

·         Ages 6+

·         MSRP  $49.99

Kurio Touch 4S (Techno Source)

 

·         Sleek, stylish, pocket-sized, and portable

·         Wi-Fi enabled android 4.2 (Jellybean) handheld device

·         Kids can record videos, take photos, listen to music, message friends, play with apps and games, and safely surf the web

·         3.97-inch multi-point touchscreen display with high-definition gaming and movie viewing capabilities, multi-core processor, front- and rear-facing cameras, integrated microphone, USB connection

·         High capacity battery offers six to eight hours of battery life

·         8 GB of internal memory, extendable to 40 GB via a micro SD card

·         Comes with set of earbuds that comfortably fit in children's ears

·         Available in black and white

·         Preloaded with more than 30 free games and apps

·         Ages: 4+

·         MSRP: $99.99

Mindstorms EV3 (Lego)

·         The LEGO Mindstorms

EV3 set includes more than 550 LEGO Technic elements, which can be used to create robots that walk, talk, think, and more.

·          Kids follow 3-D building instructions to build the robots, and control them using the enclosed remote or a smart device (free app available for download).

·         These robotic creations can be shared online at LEGO.com/mindstorms. Bonus building instructions developed by fans and endorsed by LEGO can be downloaded from the same site.

·          Age: 10+

·          MSRP $349.99

RoboMe (WowWee)

·      This robotic buddy has multiple sensors, different robotic modes, and arrives out of the box with an LED face featuring a mood indicator.

·      When used with an iPhone or iPod Touch, additional app features include customizable facial details and personality, voice recognition, and programmable commands.

·      With Remote Visual Telepresence (RVT), users can connect RoboMe to a secondary iOS device to make it see whatever they see.

·      Ages 6+

·      MSRP $99.99

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