FORT MYERS, Fla. (Consumer Reports) - If you're shopping for kids this Christmas, electronics and gadgets are always a good bet. And they don't have to break the bank.
Consumer Reports found a handful of tech-related toys, good for most children and age ranges. For example, enjoy a game of Monopoly, while keeping track of all your cash on an iPad. Or break out of jail by playing the game on a tablet computer.
"One of the the big trends this year is toys that interact with apps on your smart phone or tablet," says Consumer Reports' Carol Mangis. "We thought the Monopoly game was a lot more fun with the app."
Monopoly's "Zapped" edition costs about $30, but you download the associated app for free.
Another favorite for kids ages seven and up are "Sifteo Cubes" for $130.
"Sifteo Cubes are pricey," Mangis admits, "but there is no other toy like them. Kids will play with them for hours."
Sifteo Cubes require you to download software that adds games to the interactive squares. Then kids can shake, flip, tilt, or press the blocks to play a variety of brain teasers, like puzzles and math challenges.
If you want to get everybody off the couch, try Mattel's "Loopz Shifter" game for about $45. Players ages seven and up are challenged to repeat electronic patterns with their hands.
There are also tech toys for creative children, like Crayola's "Digital Light Desiner" for $60. Budding artists, starting at age six, can move the included wand to draw pictures with LED lights. Consumer Reports' testers found it's especially fun in the dark.
"This toy is magical," Mangis says. "But there is one drawback. Its motor is really loud."
It's not any quieter, but Smartlab's $20 DJ Rock Dock lets kids ages eight and up build a speaker system that really works. Don't expect high quality sound, but kids will love being able to say, "I made it myself."