By Jessica Wohl
(Reuters) - 'Tis the season to give a tech toy.
Tablets made for young kids and other electronic toys are expected to be found under many Christmas trees this year, as parents who are fans of gadgets such as Apple Inc's iPad look for products tailored to the younger set.
The Toy Insider, a holiday gift guide from a publisher serving the toy and licensing industries, as well as major toy sellers Walmart and Toys R Us, all put LeapFrog Enterprises Inc's LeapPad 2 on their lists of top toys for the 2012 holiday season.
In 2011, the first edition of the LeapPad was on several lists and sold well. This year, an updated version of the $99.99 tablet has a faster processor, twice as much memory and an additional camera on the front of the device.
"It's going to be the war of the tablets," said Laurie Schacht, chief executive and president of Adventure Publishing, which issues the Toy Insider Hot 20 list. "What the LeapPad 2 has done is it has really positioned itself not to be part of that tablet war but to be an item for younger kids that gets them ready to move into the older tablets."
Toy Insider's list, set to be released on Tuesday, includes the LeapPad 2 in its lineup of toys for three-to-five year olds and the Kurio 7 tablet from Techno Source for children who are 6 to 8 years old.
While the U.S. holiday shopping season does not get into full swing until the day after Thanksgiving, such lists often come out in September to give gift-givers an early look at what children might want. At the same time, chains such as Toys R Us, Wal-Mart Stores Inc's Walmart and Target Corp are promoting toys that they will sell exclusively, hoping that such products will entice shoppers to visit their stores or websites rather than shop elsewhere.
The holiday season is a crucial time for retailers and, of course, for toy makers. In 2011, the fourth quarter accounted for 46 percent of LeapFrog's annual sales. At large toy makers Mattel Inc and Hasbro Inc, more than 30 percent of annual sales come during the final quarter of the year.
SKYLANDERS, MONSTER HIGH, WII U
Other toys on the Toy Insider list include the Lego Friends Heartlake Stables, a Lego set geared toward girls. A new high school playset for Mattel's Monster High is on lists from Toy Insider and Walmart. Activision Blizzard Inc's Skylanders series of videogames and action figures is on the Toy Insider list and the Toys R Us list after a strong 2011 launch, with the Skylanders Giants coming out this year.
Eleven of the 20 items on the Toy Insider list have manufacturers' suggested prices of less than $50.
"We will, especially in this economy, take price into consideration," said Schacht.
The priciest product on the Toy Insider list is Nintendo Co's Wii U videogame console. The least expensive version is set to sell for $299 in the United States when it hits stores in November.
Some toys this year take a traditional product and give it a tech spin. With the My Magical Wand Cinderella from JAKKS Pacific Inc's TollyTots unit, when a child waves the wand, the doll tells a story and images light up on her skirt.
Meanwhile, another toy brings a digital game into the physical world. Hasbro's Words With Friends Luxe is a board game based on the digital game from Zynga Inc.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago; editing by Matthew Lewis)