'Dad, we want toys, let's go to the Apple Store'

Times have changed, and when today's kids want a treat, no toy store can match up to Apple's tech temples

It's becoming a weekend tradition in my household: On Friday or Saturday evening, my daughter, who is in the fourth grade, has me drive her to the Apple Store at a Silicon Valley shopping mall, not far from Apple's headquarters. Here, we mess around with iPhones, iPads, and some Macs, even though we already have an iPad Mini and a MacBook Air in the house.

People of all ages can be found hanging out at Apple's modern-day toy store, playing with complex, state-of-the-art consumer technology not really designed for children. It's a sign of the new times.

The Apple Store is always crowded, and the 20-something employees are always helpful. We occasionally drop in at the Microsoft Store diagonally across from the Apple Store, but the Apple Store is our principal destination, as it seems to be for most mall-goers.

Not too long ago, kids went to the mall to go to toy stores, which housed a variety of merchandise meant for, well, kids. Low-tech items like Hot Wheels cars and Barbie dolls were the principal attraction. In my own youth, toy stores in malls were new; we used to go to both toy stores and department stores' toy departments -- JM Fields, Two Guys, and Rockaway Sales, in my New Jersey hometown -- for the same ritual of play-and-window-shopping.

Although the traditional toy store remains popular today, high-tech devices like Apple's iPad can leave Barbie, Ken, and toy cars feeling lonely while Apple's tablets take up kids' times. In my house, at least, our iPad is akin to Buzz Lightyear in the movie "Toy Story" -- the hot new item stealing the thunder from all the other toys.

My daughter plays the video game Temple Run 2 on an iPhone. I have since added this game to the family's shared iPad Mini, along with the original Temple Run game. My son, who's in the sixth grade, spends the most time with the iPad Mini, even though he passes on our weekly Apple Store trips.

The world has changed from when kids just wanted bicycles and Barbie dolls. Now they want expensive iPads and iPhones, too.

As a parent, my kids' yearning for these devices puts a strain on my wallet. But it is good to see children eagerly adopting technology that is only going to increase its dominance both in the workplace and at home.

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