Children are ready to play music, that is

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

And plays guitar. And rocks out.

When Toys R Us Wednesday releases its annual toy trends list for the holidays, rock star kids are at the top of its 2007 list. Or, at least, wannabe rock stars.

The musical drivers for tweens, tykes 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 nws and Disney's disHigh 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 big plus: Older kids they've been losing may be returning for musical toys, says Annicelli.

Some toys in the holiday mix:

•Guitars for tykes. At $100, Mattel's mat 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 help 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 atviGuitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Game and guitar controller hit stores on Oct. 28.

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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