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Looks like this will be rocking holiday season for kids

Mon., Oct. 22, 2007

In Toyland, this may literally be the holiday season that sings.

And plays guitar. And rocks out.

On the annual holiday toy trend list released by toy behemoth Toys “R” Us last week, rock star kids are at the top. Or, at least, wannabe rock stars.

The musical drivers for ‘tweens, tikes and infants are everywhere. First: the iPod. The portable music device and its rivals are fueling interest in music. “There’s more music in kids’ lives because technology has made it easier to carry around,” says Cliff Annicelli, editor of “Playthings” magazine.

Big media influences, such as Fox’s “American Idol” and Disney’s “High School Musical” and “Hannah Montana” are taking over the toy aisle.

Dominant video games such as Guitar Hero are pushing the beat.

Then, there are all those parents with keyboards and guitars in the attic – eager to nudge their kids to musical glories they never quite achieved.

“Music is everywhere this year,” says Bob Giampietro, senior vice president of trends and innovation at Toys “R” Us. “It’s a way for parents and grandparents to engage with kids in a way that’s very different from baseball, football and soccer.”

For toy folks, it’s big money. Some musical toys sell for up to $100. Sales of musical toys could pass $1 billion this holiday, projects Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of Toy Wishes, a family shopping guide.

For the toy industry there’s another plus: Older kids they’ve been losing may return for musical toys, says Annicelli.

Some toys in the holiday mix:

•Guitars for tikes. At $100, Mattel’s I Can Play Guitar targets kids age 6 and up. The guitar plugs into a TV and uses video and a color-coded system to teach kids to play. New technologies allow kids to master instruments at younger ages, says David Allmark, general manager at the Fisher-Price unit. What’s more, he adds, it’s a lot cheaper than music lessons.

•Kid-size guitars. For ‘tweens and up, there’s First Act’s 36-inch Player Series Acoustic Guitar. It’s $70 and built for smaller hands. “Parents recognize that kids spend too much time on computers,” says CEO Bernard Chiu. “That’s driving our business.”

•Rock video games. At $90 to $100, Activision’s Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Game and Guitar Controller hits stores Sunday.

With this sequel to popular games, “you can become the rock god,” says Dusty Welch, head of publishing for Activision. Even kids “have a deep-seated fantasy of getting their 15 minutes of fame.”

•Rock concert toys. Few toys are hotter than the Hannah Montana line from Play Along. Hannah’s Tour Bus, at $80, features an 18-inch bus with a lounge, dance floor and Jacuzzi. “It’s a line parents approve,” says Tom Delaney, marketing vice president, “because they don’t hate the star.”


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