by Cate Coulacos Prato

Toys – 12 Computer Chips A-Buzzing

Dec 01, 20032 mins
Data Center

One thing is close to certain about this holiday season’s hot toys: They will come with computer chips and run on batteries. About seven of 10 infant and preschooler toys made today are electronic, calculates the Toy Industry Association.

While products such as Tickle Me Elmo and Tamagotchi virtual pets flew off the shelves during Christmas seasons past, toy industry watchers expect this year’s shoppers to be in a mood to learn. We’re more likely to see educational electronics such as LeapPad (above), an interactive book that sounds out words and plays games with children, rack up sales, says Maria Weiskott, editor in chief of the trade publication Playthings magazine.

Diane Cardinale, a Toy Industry Association spokesman, says gizmos that beep, flash and buzz (and promise educational value) tug at parents of diaper-clad kids. KidzMouse (left), for example, makes brightly colored computer mice ergonomically designed for kids as young as two, while Neurosmith offers an electronic shape-sorter for babies that purports to teach children Japanese.

Children between the ages of 9 and 12, known as “tweens,” also require some razzle-dazzle. Dolls, action figures and board games don’t cut it anymore, Cardinale says. Shopping for these kids means turning to music, fashion, sports and the Internet, starting as early as age 8. Karaoke machines, like the products by The Singing Machine (right) will sell well to the tween market this season, along with media products such as candy-colored DVD players and boom boxes and video game systems such as Microsoft’s Xbox.

And old standbys such as Monopoly and Scrabble from Hasbro are getting digital updates with CD and handheld versions (left and right). These refreshed retro games?particularly from the ’50s and ’60s?are also a hot trend influenced by baby boomers’ nostalgia for their childhood and the collectibles market. Don’t worry, though?there are still 24 shopping days left.