The writers at FamilyFun magazine are experts on what kids love. It's their job. And this year, they put together their collective brains to write up the definitive 2012 kids' tech gift guide. Read on to see what's the hottest in tech this holiday season.
For music lovers:You'll go wild for these speakers. Add some personality to your music time with Zoo Tunes speakers. The battery-operated critters plug into MP3 players, smartphones and other media devices for portable jams. Available in seven styles. Ages 5 and up, $29.99 (Impecca).
For the ears:Lalaloopsy headphones have everything a girl could want for listening to her tunes: cushioned ear pads and cute styling. They also sport features parents want: volume control, durability and affordability. Ages 4 and up, $19.99 (Jazwares).
App we love:In Monster Physics, colorful creatures help you design virtual contraptions you then can make work on-screen, using forces such as gravity and velocity. iOS. Ages 7 and up, .99 cents (Dan Russell-Pinson).
For aspiring directors: Capture the action by making quality homemade movies, thanks to the Action Shot Digital Video Camera. Use the included strap to attach the camera to a helmet or shoot from a board with the mounting kit (sold separately, $24.99). Free online software lets young movers and shakers edit images before sharing them with fans. Ages 7 and up, $49.99 (Jakks Pacific).
For the computer: Keep your tech screens smudge-free with a Squeaky Clean mouse. This machine-washable microfiber pal cleans fingerprints and more from computers, MP3 players, CDs and phones. Ages 5 and up, $12 (North American Bear Co.)
For tech-loving tweens: Parents not ready to let you loose on their $500 tablet? Here are two products the 'rents may accept as a compromise. Both Techno Source's Kurio7 and Oregon Scientific's Meep boast 7-inch screens, preloaded games, online access and colorful protective guards. We especially like Kurio's front and back cameras and your folks will like the parental controls on both. For instance, Meep offers parental control access from any device with online capability, including smartphones. Ages 6 and older, $149.99 each.
For gamers -- a new video game system:The Wii U is sure to be at the top of many kid's — and parent's — wish list this year. The interactive system's GamePad is a touch-screen controller that looks and acts like a tablet. We love the fact the GamePad can be used both in multiplayer games with the console and for stand-alone play. Bonus: most old Wii games and controllers are compatible with the new system. Ages 5 and up, starting at $299 (Nintendo).
Gamers -- great new games: -- Players entering the Nintendo Land theme park can try their luck at 12 mini games based on such classics as Donkey Kong and the Legend of Zelda. Our favorite: Luigi's Ghost Mansion, where the player holding the GamePad controls a ghost invisible to others. One to five players. Wii U. Ages 10 and older, $59.99 (Nintendo). -- In Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, our pal has some help from Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Together they battle to save Wasteland in this magical (and musical) sequel to the popular Disney Epic Mickey. One or two players. Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, Wii U. Ages eight and older, $39.99 to $59.99 (Disney Interactive). -- Take the classic Sega game Castle of Illusion, move its characters and its storyline (saving Minnie from the witch Mizrabel) to Wasteland, and you have Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion. One player. 3DS. Ages five and older, $39.99 (Disney Interactive). - Wonderbook: Book of Spells, with original content by J. K. Rowling, holds many secrets of the Harry Potter universe. Through the technology of the PlayStation Move controller and Eye Camera, the Wonderbook conjures a magical 3-D pop-up world, where students can interact with the game by practicing spells and exploring the depths of Hogwarts. 1 player. PS3. Ages 10 and older, $39.99 (Sony PlayStation). - Upon accepting admission to Hogwarts, try to become the best witch or wizard by casting spells, brewing and dueling in Harry Potter for Kinect. Especially magical: the game features scenes from the entire series. One or two players. Xbox 360 Kinect. Ages 10 and older, $49.99 (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment).