Make room in the toy box for the iPad.
Crayola allows tots to doodle on the iPad using its iMarker just as they would a crayon on a coloring book. Tweens are able to belt out their favorite Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez tunes on a Disney microphone that turns the tablet into a karaoke machine. And technology accessories company Griffin enables teens to fly its toy helicopter by using the iPhone as a remote control.
This holiday season, toymakers have turned Apple's pricey tablet and smartphone into playthings for kids. They figure in this weak economy, parents will be willing to splurge on toys for their children that utilize devices they already have — or want — themselves.
That the iPad and iPhone have infiltrated the $22 billion toy market this season is no surprise. Smartphones and tablets — particularly Apple products — are more popular than ever with people of all ages. This year, Apple is expected to double the number of iPhones sold to 90.6 million worldwide, according to research firm Gartner, while the number of iPads sold is expected to triple to 46.7 million.
And Apple products have a certain "cool factor" with kids that toy companies, which can make up to half of their revenue during the holidays, are hoping to tap into. In fact, the iPad and iPhone are among the most coveted electronics this holiday season among kids. About 44 percent of 6- to 12-year-olds want the iPad this year, according to a survey by research firm Nielsen.
Not to mention, anyone who's a parent knows all too well that babies and older kids alike love to fiddle with or drool all over Mommy's iPad. Nearly 40 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds have used a smartphone, iPad or video iPod, according to a survey by nonprofit group Common Sense Media. That number rises to 52 percent for 5- to 8-year-olds.
"It's mostly something for kids to use in the car or at the doctor's office," says Chris Baynes, a toy analyst. "It's a way to get the kid to be quiet."
"Regardless of who they buy it for, once it is in the household, we know that kids use it," said Vicky Lozano, vice president of marketing at Crayola, which makes the iMarker.
Analysts say these toys are just the beginning of a new niche for toymakers. Indeed, most of the companies say they plan to roll out more products for smartphones and tablets — including some that use Google's Android software — next year.
"I think it's going to be a growing segment," said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief at toy review website TimeToPlaymag.com. "Next year, there will be even more (products) than you can possibly imagine."