Your kids get up at the crack of dawn and rouse you out of bed. Tell me one other day out of the year when that happens. The holidays are, bar none, the most important time of the year for kids. They define the coming year in terms of the currency of childhood – toys. Most of the quality of the following year’s playtime is going to be with whatever they get now, so make it memorable.
Granted, your kids have probably already impressed upon you what they expect from the holiday season. But, if you still have a little leeway to surprise them this year, look below for some of the hottest toys and gadgets for kids out this holiday season.
If you have a budding artist, you can focus their attention away from the walls of your home and to your iPad with the Disney Creativity Studio and Smart Stylus. The Disney Creativity Studio is an art app that offers tutorials on how to draw Disney characters and offers activities like tracing and connect-the-dots, along with plenty of room for free drawing. The stylus can be used to give kids a little more control over their drawing, and can be used as a virtual pencil, marker, or crayon on the app. The stylus also works with the 8-bit inspired Pixel’d app, and, we would imagine, works perfectly well as a stylus with any other app on your tablet. It’s with the two Disney apps that the stylus will be capable of a little extra – flipping the stylus over will activate erase, while shaking the stylus will add a variety of effects onto the drawing. The Smart Stylus is about $50, which includes the Disney Creativity Studio app (iOS only) for free.
Mickey Mouse’s second epic video game adventure has kicked off, and it’s a bit of a first – the first high-profile video game musical to ever hit consoles. Players will join Mickey and his paintbrush, along with a whole host of older Disney characters that neither you nor your parents probably remember. Disney reached way back into the ’20s and ’30s to pull out one of their earliest creations, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who serves as the second half of that “Power of Two.” Other players can join or leave the game at-will, with drop-in drop-out cooperative gameplay, as Mickey and Oswald try to take down the Mad Doctor again, righting things in Wasteland along the way. Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is available on Amazon for the Nintendo Wii ($40), Wii U ($50), and 3DS ($30), as well as the Xbox 360 ($50) and PlayStation 3 ($50).
Oh, you thought the Furby was done? No, far from it. The toy hall of famer is back with a vengeance, bringing a little tech along the way. This time, the Furby is smart – it develops over time depending on how much kids play with it, and how they play with it. You can play music for the Furby, pet it, feed it, tickle it, or pull its tail, among many other actions that will elicit some kind of a response from the Furby – sometimes expected, sometimes not. The Furby can also interact with other Furbies. If you want to know exactly what the newly sentient Furbies are saying, you can download a free iOS app – a Furbish-English dictionary. Furbies still don’t come cheap, though – the new Furby is selling for about $73 on Amazon.
The VTech InnoTab 2S is one of the best starter tablets from the crowd that’s a bit too young to be wielding grown-up tablets. The InnoTab is locked into its own apps and cartridges, so you won’t need to worry about any unsupervised Web browsing going on behind your back. There’s also a rear-facing camera and an SD card slot which can expand internal storage by as much as 32 GB. Limited Wi-Fi is included, so kids can access VTech’s store full of games, app, music, videos, and educational material. Kids will be able to access the free stuff, then mark down the paid material on their Wish List, which can be accessed from parents’ own mobile devices. No horrendous credit card bills because of this one! The VTech InnoTab 2S is selling now from Amazon for about $100.
Mickey Mouse breaks into the world of breakdancing with this hip new doll from Fisher-Price. Master Moves Mickey comes with 15 different dance moves, including 360 degree spins and handstands, which he’ll perform along to eight songs, including hits like “M-to-the-I Remix” and “Who’s Da Mouse.” He’ll even be giving out free lessons – four simple dance lessons that will get younger kids moving to the music, too (don’t worry, Mickey will be handling the spins and handstands by himself). Well, those lessons aren’t totally free. Master Moves Mickey will impart his dancing wisdom for about $49 on Amazon.
Playing house has come a long way. The Fisher-Price Servin’ Surprises Kitchen & Table looks set to usher in the next generation of culinary geniuses and/or frozen pizza makers. The playset includes a toy oven, serving tray, pizza, and toy cookies, as well as plates and utensils for two. The Easy Bake Oven this isn’t – kids can just use this one to play house with fake food and, hopefully, a real sense of fun and imagination. The table also comes stocked with phrases and songs that play after appropriate actions, like taking the pizza out of the oven or putting it onto the serving tray. The Fisher-Price Servin’ Surprises Kitchen & Table is selling on Amazon for about $60.
Barbie’s been many things, but you probably didn’t think she was ever going to be a digital camera. Believe it or not, it’s true – Barbie is getting into the digital age with the Barbie Photo Fashion Doll. The camera lens is actually up near Barbie’s eyes, so the pictures taken will be from Barbie’s point of view, before being displayed on her shirt, which doubles as a small LCD screen. Barbie can store about 100 photos, all of which can be transferred over to a PC using a USB cable. The Barbie Photo Fashion Doll is available on Amazon now for about $40.
The Meep Tablet is designed for the tween and early teenage crowd, and promises full tablet functionality with an appropriate dose of parental control. Meep is a 7” tablet with a touchscreen, and runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, like any other “grown-up” Android tablet on the market. It can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, and features 4 GB of internal storage that can be expanded using an SD card. A modest .3 MP camera is included on the back. Over 50 apps are included with Meep, including games, books, and educational material. Parental control is cleverly implemented to get around any possible circumvention – parental controls can be accessed using an online account that can be accessed by the parent from any Internet-connected device. The device-specific Meep chat is a chat program that kids can use to communicate with their friends – this can be fully monitored by parents. The Meep Tablet is available on Amazon for about $150.
The LeapsterGS is a handheld gaming system in the same vein as the Nintendo 3DS or the PlayStation Vita, but designed for preschool and early elementary school children. The device has a motion sensor used by many of the games developed for it. The LeapsterGS Explorer works with all LeapFrog cartridges and apps, so if you have any cartridges from other LeapFrog devices, you should be able to use them with the new device. Most of the games have an educational tilt designed to prepare younger learners for education in math, language, and science. There’s also a camera on the back thrown in. The LeapFrog LeapsterGS Explorer is available now on Amazon for $60.
Kids are kids. Being such, they may ask for a pony. This is not going to happen. What can happen is that Baby Butterscotch can trot under the tree. This poseable pony can be made to stand, sit, or lay down, and responds with noises and movement whenever kids interact with her. She’ll make whinnying sounds, and will make chewing sounds if you feed her the stuffed carrot that comes along with the pony. There’s also a grooming brush included, because no pony should look anything less than her best. Baby Butterscotch can at least make those pony dreams come true in some way for about $100 on Amazon.
The Kurio Kids Tablet might be the most impressive of all kids’ tablets this year – enough to where adults might not mind using it, either. It’s a 7” Android 4.o Ice Cream Sandwich tablet, and it includes both rear and front-facing cameras. There’s HD playback, as well as USB and HDMI ports and an SD card slot that can expand memory by up to 32 GB. The tablet comes loaded with games, ebooks, and educational apps, and provides access to Google Play, though in a limited form curated by the Kurio team. Parents will have full control over which apps are allowed and not allowed, and can also adjust controls on the Web browser, which comes with its own filter to block out inappropriate content. Parents can also make up to eight different profiles for each child in the family, with various control settings, if they so choose. There’s also a drop-safe bumper to keep the tablet safe from falls and drops. The Kurio 7” Kids Tablet is selling from Toys ‘R’ Us for about $150.
Don’t know what to do with your old iPhone? Stuff it into an iBuKu Pet and make a present out of it. iBuKu Pets are soft plastic bears (in green or pink) that can hold the iPhone, giving it a little character. Along for the ride will be a series of apps featuring Alvi, Bibi, Cuki and Duru – rainforest-dwelling little creatures who go on adventures that help kids have fun and learn something while they’re at it. It’ll fit all the pre-Lightning models of the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iBuKu Pet serves as a protective case and a stand, and can be used as a nightlight or an alarm clock for kids using other third-party apps. This is one you’ll have to keep an eye on, though – it’s currently attempting to secure funding on Kickstarter. Check out the Kickstarter page for more information on how to get your hands on one. $35 is the minimum investment to get an iBuKu Pet.
For more great holiday gift ideas for kids, check out Chip Chicklets