Electronic toys -- match the gizmo to the age

by Julie Snyder

Electronic Toy ShoppingNo need to struggle with your holiday gift list this year! You know that every kid, from tot to teen, wants something electronic under the tree. The problem is which gadget matches which age?

With nearly every brand making their own version of the hottest gadgets, narrowing down to the best bang for your buck can be a challenge.

Check out our breakdown for the latest and greatest toys for this holiday season!

Hottest electronic toys for 2012

0-24 Months

Kids this young really don't need much as far as entertainment is concerned. More often than not, the box fascinates than the toy itself.

But, if you're interested in a bright, fun and noisy toy look no further than the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn series. Geared towards babies from sitting age to toddling, it offers a large variety from soft puppies to bouncers.

We don't suggest getting lured into any of the baby "laptops" or "tablets" being offered up for this age group. While the idea seems adorable, screen time isn't recommended for the under two crowd.

2 to 4 years

Your 2- or 3-year-old has entered the age of the sponge, absorbing every tiny bit of knowledge there is to soak up. From language to singing to math and beyond, they're at that perfect age for something hands-on and interactive.

Will you take the plunge and buy your toddler or preschooler tablets and iPads?

Is this the wave of the future? Probably! Many parents are making the choice to buy into the fancier, pricier products for their younger set.

Angie, mom of 3, explains her choice, "The iPad or iPod touch grows with you. As the kids get older, they'll get age appropriate apps. Good news -- most apps have a free version. If you do pay, you're only out $.99 to 2.99."

If this is out of your price or comfort range, consider the highly praised Leap Pad. Rough and tough, it can take beatings and drool sessions.

Beware, these toys require a lot of software purchases and downloads. Also, for some brands require internet connectivity and an obscene amount of batteries.

The Switch and Go Dinos® from Vtech are sure to be in huge demand this year, along with the ever-anticipated return of the beloved Furby.

5 to 11 years

Never have the age groups been so in tune with their desires!

Tablets, phones and MP3 players top the list of this age group. Since older kids usually are less hard on their toys, you can settle in more comfortably with the purchase.

Looking for an older version or a used item may be less expensive and still offer tons of play time for your tweens.

Tablets: For a tablet choice, we like the Amazon Kindle Fire. Besides reading books, you have an enormous amount of apps, movies and television shows available to you at reasonable rates. Amazon makes it really easy for the parent to control the purchases and settings to keep spending down to a minimum. The Kindle has unbeatable customer service.

Music: For music-related gadgets, our pick is the iPod touch. An MP3 hybrid, you get the best of both the app and the music world.

Apple makes it crazy easy to handle parental controls and purchases. You'll spend a little more for the Apple but you'll get better battery life and a rock solid reputation, not to mention mass street cred!

Game consoles: The newest console from Nintendo, the Wii U, has been hyped up all year. Now the time has come. Is it worth it, though?

Ryan, age 9, says: "I really want this, but I don't want to beg for news games all over again. Parents hate buying new stuff."

Ryan, how right you are! Mom and dad find it hard to swallow the mind-blowing costs of yet another upgrade. We say keep the old consoles and stock up on the now cheaper games!

Hand-held games: Hand-held consoles such as DSi, 3DS and the PSP remain as hot as ever and high on the kids' lists. All versions have been out for a year or more, so games and accessories should be cheaper and in stock.

Before you hand over the gift, give your child a big hug. They may be scarce until the newness wear off! Have you added something electronic to your child's present stash?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.