IT is the technological generation for whom touch screens are second nature and even teddy bears come with artificial intelligence.
And now it appears that gadget-based toys will be top of letters to Santa this year as retailer Hamleys unveiled is top predictions for this year’s Christmas must-haves.
The recent move back towards old-fashioned wooden toys appears to be firmly relegated to the past, replaced by a robot featuring speech-to-text technology and a cuddly “My Friend Freddy” bear who “really knows you” the moment he is connected to a smart device.
Hamleys, whose buyers have predicted the 10 top sellers this Christmas from the thousands launched this year, said at its annual “Christmas in June” event that manufacturers had focused on innovation to encourage creativity in children. The latest LeapPad Platinum children’s tablet – suitable for children as young as three – comes in at £120 but features a “fast, powerful processor and sleek design” with front and back cameras, music player and enhanced parental controls.
The £40 3D Maker lets children create masterpieces ranging from a butterfly to the Eiffel Tower from scratch, while parents enlisted to help can be reassured that this takes just four simple steps.
The £65 i-Que Intelligent Robot, also for those aged three and older, uses speech-to-text technology to “literally understand almost anything you say”, while even toddler favourite Peppa Pig will break into a version of Ring A Ring O’ Roses if her hands are held.
A spokesman for Hamleys said: “Toy manufacturers have focused on innovative, imaginative play in developing new toys for this Christmas. This innovation is also driving creativity in children with two hi-tech craft toys featuring on the list.”
The latest Thunderbirds offering is an £80 Tracy Island playset featuring interactive technology, while the new £60 Little Live Pets Clever Keet - “your feathered friend who’s just like a real bird only smarter” - can not only talk and respond to voices but drives its own cart.
Kinetic Sand is set to occupy little hands with its mess-free liquid-like texture that never dries out, while the Shopkins collectible craze looks set to continue with the £20 Ice Cream Truck.
Frozen, the Disney hit film which has dominated toddler merchandising in recent years, will still be popular ahead of next year’s release of the sequel - with a £40 Skate & Sing Elsa that allows fans to relive the movie likely to find its way under thousands of Christmas trees.
Donald Nairn, owner of toy shop Toys Galore in Edinburgh, said technology-based toys are becoming increasingly popular across all sectors.
“If you have an interactive teddy bear, your target market is quite young and is less likely to be swayed by advertising. However, what most older kids want is something they see on TV that gets them excited. Come Christmas Day it can sometimes be disappointing when the product doesn’t necessarily deliver the magic promised by the advert.
“I often think that toys which try to have apps attached to them don’t work very well - it sometimes seems like an afterthought, that manufacturers feel they have to add a technological element.”
He said he expected Lego’s new ranges - including a Lego Friends popstar tour bus - and Star Wars merchandise off the back of the new film, which is released in December, to be the big Christmas hit.
Technology-related toys have been consistently popular in recent years, although wooden toys have enjoyed a resurgence, as have relaunched classics such as My Little Ponies, which were brought back to shelves in the UK in 2003 with a new look.
Even retro technology toys have enjoyed a comeback, with the Japanese Tamagotchi toy which sparked a craze in the 1990s, relaunching two years ago.
Interactive Tracy Island £80
Skate & Sing Elsa £40
i-Que Intelligent Robot £65
Little Live Pets – Clever Keet £60
Once Upon A Time Princess Rose Peppa £20
Kinetic Sand £20
3D Maker £40
My Friend Freddie Bear£40
Shopkins ‘Scoops’ Ice Cream Truck Playset£20