In the last few weeks, I've noticed an interesting trend among my young cousins. No longer do they want cuddly toys or regular action figures from Santa. This year, it's all about iPhones and iPads--a marked change from the increasingly distant days when I was a kid. Given the importance of such devices this Christmas, we thought we'd take a look at just how apps are invading the toy aisle and offer a few ideas for festive presents.
Ideas for Babies and Toddlers
Fisher Price offer plenty of great ways of integrating iPhones or iPads with your kids' playtime. The Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case turns devices into a form of 21st century rattle. Noisy beads keep them interested, while a mirror means that baby can take a look at themselves. There's peace of mind too, as the case can withstand drool, teething and a certain amount of throwing around. It comes in iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad varieties.
The Apptivity brand continues from there, too. There's a Storybook Reader, which turns an iOS device into a book that can be turned just as easily as a conventional tome.
For the more active baby, there's the Gym, allowing babies to hone their motor skills in conventional ways, while also playing peek-a-boo with the Fisher Price app.
Finally, there's the Monkey, with its cuddly toy nature combined with the power of some fun iOS games for the youngster.
Toddlers can enjoy the fun of Dora the Explorer Let's Play Backpack, which lets kids place a toy backpack on an iPad in order to unlock new activities to learn logic, Spanish and many other important skills.
Toy Vehicles for the 21st Century
Remember as a kid how much fun it was to play with toy cars? Disney and its AppMATes toys have brought that up to date. Disney Cars2 AppMATes come in two varieties: Lightning McQueen/Holley Shiftwell and Mater/Finn McMissile. In both cases, kids place the car on the iPad screen before taking it for a spin around Radiator Springs. It's perfectly safe for the screen, too, thanks to the rubber contacts, although doesn't work through screen protectors.
For the Scientific Child
iTikes offers a great range of toys that turn iOS devices into more educational tools. The Map Explorer uses a form of Augmented Reality to help kids interact with a world map, as well as learn about the Solar System, dinosaurs and animals.
Other toys such as the Microscope, Keyboard and Canvas offer a similar mix of educational fun. It's all helped by the fact that kids don't require an iOS device at all times to enjoy the toy.
For the Creative Child
Creative kids have a ton of choice, especially if there's an iPad at their disposal. Forerunners in the field, Crayola, offer two particularly interesting products in the form of DigiTools and ColorStudio HD.
Each pack offers a selection of physical tools that enable kids to draw to their heart's delight on their iPad, without any of the mess that comes with actual painting and drawing.
The Disney Creativity Studio Smart Stylus offers a slightly more focused experience with an instructional app that teaches kids how to draw all their favorite characters.
Games for all the Family
Using a form of augmented reality to bring cards to life, Animal Planet Wildlands Digital Game provides a fun and educational experience, enabling kids to go on an animal themed adventure as they learn more about such wildlife.
Such augmented reality style technology is used for the number focused game, Cypher Kids Numbers 3D Interactive Cards, giving young children a fun way to learn numbers and how to count.
Action Figures for the 21st century
One of the biggest phenomenons in recent times, Skylanders are hot stuff this year. Now, they've come to iOS with the Skylanders Battlegrounds: Mobile Starter Pack. Our very own Carter Dotson is taking the time to learn more about it, but it's safe to say it's going to be an addictive title for youngsters.
Those kids who want to play with more conventional action figures have the choice of Mattel Apptivity's selection.
Covering some major toy brands such as Hot Wheels, WWE Rumblers and Batman, the apps and toys work together to provide a particularly thrilling experience. Kids can race on their iPad with their Hot Wheels, or place their WWE Wrestlers in the iPad Ring. It's a fun amalgamation of much loved characters and modern technology.
Big Kids' Toys
Want to treat an older child of yours, or simply buy yourself something fun? The Silverlit Interactive Bluetooth Remote Control Cars should be perfect.
Available in Ferrari and Porsche varieties, the cars are controlled via an iOS device instead of a conventional remote control. They look like fantastic fun.
For those with plenty of money spare, the Parrot AR Drone offers similar remote control fun, but gives players the chance to control a Quadricopter that flies around, taking photos and videos whether it goes.