September 21, 2012 by Jeana Lee Tahnk

Appfinity AppDrive

Put yourself in the driver’s seat with this fun racing accessory.This, in conjunction with the 2XL ATV Offroad app ($4.99, free version available as well) will give new meaning to virtual offroading. The handles make for a realistic feel, but because of the small screen, it does take some getting used to the maneuvers and turns. ($19.99, available in the fall 2012)

Mattel Apptivity

Leave it to the toy powerhouse of Mattel to come up with physical characters to match our favorite games like Cut the Rope and Angry Birds. With Cut the Rope, you can use the little “OmNom” figurine directly on the iPad to collect yummy candy, but watch out for those spiders! The Apptivity line also offers Hot Wheels, Fruit Ninja, Batman and other appcessories. ($9.99 each)


GameChanger makes regular board games seem so old school. Using the iPad as the main board for the game, the GameChanger comes with interchangeable panels that get placed on the electro-sensor sides. Downloading the GameChanger app will provide titles like Magic School Bus and Animal Mania, redefining family game night into a digitally interactive experience. ($79.99)

Piano Apprentice

If your child is a budding Brahms or Billy Joel, check out the Piano Apprentice for help in learning how to tickle the ivories. This miniature keyboard has a built-in rest for the iPad. Once you download the complementary app, your kid can learn how to play tunes like “Happy Birthday,” “Greensleeves,” “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and more using the on-screen instruction and following the prompted keys that light up. The song selection in the app isn’t vast, but once the pianist has mastered the songs, he or she may be ready to move onto the real thing. ($69.99)


Remember the whole Pet Rock craze? Sphero is like a pet ball, but instead of just sitting there, it responds to your commands, changes colors at your whim, goes to sleep and even lets you practice your golf game. Sphero is an incredibly sophisticated piece of gadgetry that connects via Bluetooth to your mobile device. Using any of its array of apps, you can have your pick from a variety of activities and games. Young kids may need a little help maneuvering, but they’ll quickly get the hang of it. ($129.99)

Today’s kids are growing up with technology that no other generation has ever experienced and are essentially serving as guinea pigs for a whole new generation of play. With kids exploring the blurred lines between physical and virtual play, toymakers are rushing to create more and more ‘appcessories’ for kids to interact with their toys – and their gadgets.

Appcessories have boomed into the marketplace in the past couple of years and have evolved into everything from plush companions like Ubooly and Totoya Creatures to Nukotoys’ educational and interactive “trading” cards. And this is just the beginning.

A recent survey by the NPD Group found that tablet use among kids has grown by 13 percent this past year, as opposed to just 3 percent in 2011. These numbers will undoubtedly continue growing and are adding even more motivation for manufacturers to get their “latest and greatest” appcessories onto the marketplace.
Now that kids are “playing” with their gadgets, how is play being redefined? Do appcessories count as screen time or is this simply the way that play is evolving? The reality is that there are always going to be wooden blocks, pots and pans and non-digital toys that kids can play with, which would make appcessories falling under media usage a logical connection.

Lauren Rubenzahl, program coordinator at the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School expressed that appcessories, like all other forms of media, can certainly have their place in terms of benefitting the child, assuming you’re choosing ones that are developmentally appropriate. She suggests, “Appcessories can be fun and useful. When choosing them, it’s helpful to think about what purpose you’d like them to serve. Then use that information to help guide your decisions about how you’d like your kids to use them.”

And since appcessories still mean gadget time, experts urge parents to stick with the AAP guideline of no screen time – including apps and appcessories – for kids under the age of two. For those over the age of two, moderation, as always, is key.

Take a look through the gallery to see five fun appcessories that kids (and adults!) will enjoy, in moderation, of course.
Photo courtesy iStockphoto, twilightproductions.

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