Top Toys of the Year

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BABIES & TODDLERS

Activi-Tree
Ages 3 months and older; $12.99
Bright Starts; brightstarts.com
Baby will love this colorful, stimulating activity toy featuring seven different things to push, roll, open, slide and turn.  For use in or out of the crib, the Activi-Tree is a fun way to engage motor skills.

Bumpy Ball
Ages 6 months and older; $19.99
Sassy; sassybaby.com
Baby can grab at this cushy ball easily with its colorful bumps and build hand-eye coordination.  There’s a rattling aspect in one of the bumps.

Cruise n’ Sort Bus
Ages 12 months and older; $12.99
Bright Starts; brightstarts.com
Baby will have fun pushing this festive little bus across the floor as he crawls while eight different pieces help teach your tot about shapes, color, letters and numbers.

ExerSaucer Jump & Learn
Active Learning Center
Ages 4 months to walking, up to 30 inches tall; $99.99
Evenflo; evenflo.com
With more than 50 learning activities, your growing baby can exercise his legs and mind all in one stationary seat.  Coiled springs in the tops of the seat’s legs allow for more bounce than the usual activity centers.  It even creates a rocking motion – which can be partially slowed with three stoppers – and it adjusts to three different heights.  Three electronic aspects will engage Baby with lights and sound as he presses buttons and moveable and re-moveable toys.

Explore ‘N Grow Musical Gear Center
Ages 9 months and older; $24.99
Playskool; hasbro.com
Engage Baby with lights and sounds, balls and gears with this not-so-ordinary gear center.  Stack or connect the gears, press the button and watch them turn.  Drop a ball in the top and watch it come down the tunnel.  So many ways to play all in one little station.

Fire Truck
Ages 1 and older; $24.99
Green Toys; greentoys.com
Your little firefighter can lift the ladder and rotate it in a complete circle to rescue all those kittens in trees or put out the fire in the kitchen – all with a little imagination.  It also has two removable side ladders.  This cute, tough little fire truck is made from 100 percent recycled plastic milk containers and has no metal axles – completely safe for the environment.

Musical Motion Activity Jumper
Ages 4 months and older; $99.99
The Baby Einstein Company; babyeinstein.com
View a review of this product here.

Panda Blankie
Ages 0 and older; $9.99
Lamaze; learningcurve.com
This soft, little blankie will have your little one engaged and fascinated with its high-contrast black and white as well as the different textures and colors, too.  The knotted corners are great for little teethers and Baby will love to snuggle with his new little friend.

Pop on Pals Amusement Park
Ages 2 and older
Pop on Pals; poponpals.com
Toddlers can have hours of fun with the Amusement Park playset that comes with one figure and three changeable body part rings.  Let your character ride the roller coaster and Ferris wheel, swing on the dragon and play a carnival game, all with lights and sounds!

Pull Along
Musical Pirate Ship
Ages 1 and older; $29.99
Mega Bloks; megabrands.com
This little guy rolls with the pull of a string to follow your little pirate on his treasure hunting adventures.  Pirate-like tunes help to set the scene and a trapdoor catches thieving pirates.  Defend the mighty ship with the working cannon!

Rainstick Pals
Ages 3 months and older; $5.95
Baby Einstein; babyeinstein.com
This little rattle is soft and cushy on the top and bottom for chewable delight as well as a rainstick like rattle in the middle.  It is small and light enough for those little hands and the plush animal it depicts provides extra cushion so if Baby gets too excited shaking the rattle, it will not hurt if he hits himself in the face.

Rock Star Guitar
Ages 6 months and older; $5.99
Sassy; sassybaby.com
Baby can “strum” the barrel in the middle to spin it and cause it to make a rattling sound and play a tune.  The buttons on the front also play a tune.  This little rattle will engage Baby with touch and sound with the spinning middle and bumps on the handle as well as help him develop in those areas with a little fun, too.

Wash & Dry
Ages 6 months and older; $24.99
Alex Jr.; alextoys.com
This cute, soft washer/dryer combo will have your little one doing laundry right along with you – at least pretend ones.  Baby can put one of the 10 pieces of cloth – each depicting a different item of clothing – into the whole at the top.  You can even open the front panel.

 

AGES 3 – 7

Bigfoot the Monster
Ages 3 and older; $99.99
Fisher Price; fisher-price.com
This little monster with the big personality is a hot item this year.  With acrobatic moves, the remote toggle enables him to walk forward and backward, throw his ball, roar and pound his fists.  Six buttons on the remote trigger  different status levels like happy, angry, sleep, fun, ball and exercise.  Bigfoot’s movable limbs, brows, eyes and jaw give him extra appeal.

Dinosaur Train InterAction Figures – Morris
Ages 3 and older; $19.99 each
Learning Curve; learningcurve.com
These dinos from Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train TV series have more to say that the usual roar – Morris has more than 50 sounds and phrases.  Press his back, swing his tail, touch his mouth and stomp his foot to hear what he has to say.  If you have another character – Boris, Buddy, Tiny, Tank or Ned – set them close together and hear them interact with each other by introducing themselves, saying “Hi” to each other and simultaneously saying a phrase together.

 Disney Princess & Me CinderellaPrincess & Me Cinderella
Ages 5 and older; $49.99
JAKKS Pacific; disneyprincessandme.com
This 18-inch doll is a newer, more elegant Cinderella than ever before.  Her eyes look real, her ball gown is spectacular, her beautiful crown is sparkly and she’s bigger!  Collect them all – there’s also Belle, Tiana, Ariel and Aurora, each sold separately.  You can also purchase a Disney Princess & Me Dress by Creative Designs ($39.99) to coordinate your little princess with hers.

Hopscotch Rug
Ages 3 and older; $44.99
Alex; alextoys.com
For a quick game of hopscotch, all you need is this brightly colored, durable rug and the accompanied three bean-bags and get started.  The bottom is coated like a regular rug to keep it from slipping away as the kiddos hop along.  You can use it inside or out and it rolls back up for easy storage.

MobiGo Touch Learning System
Ages 3 – 8; $59.99
VTech; vtechkids.com
This cool gadget is a hand-held game for little hands that also encourages learning.  It’s easy to use and the touch-screen is super sensitive and works really well.  The top slides up to reveal a keyboard, too.  It teaches basic school skills like math, vocabulary, logic and more.  Great for early learners that like to play games.
 
My Take Along Puppet Theater
Ages 4 and older; $49.99
Playmobil; playmobil.com
The coolest playset to come from Playmobil in quite a while, My Take Along Puppet Theater is a self-contained set that folds up into a carrying case.  Open it up, and your kid’s imagination can run wild.  The set features several different backdrops, seven characters and all sorts of props and costumes that enable your child to enjoy theatrical play.  The battery-powered sound effects device includes four different sounds (including cheerful applause), making it all the more exciting.

 Play-Doh Toy Time Race Game
Ages 4 and older; $15.99
Hasbro; hasbrogames.com
Mold your own game piece (Mr. Potato Head, Chuck the Dump Truck, My Little Pony or at Play-Doh can) and move your toys across the conveyor belt in the Toy Factory and into the gift box.  Be careful of your opponents as they may squish your creation and send you back to the beginning.

Tonka Chuck & Friends: Chuck’s Stunt Park
Ages 3 and older; $39.99
Hasbro; hasbro.com
Assemble this track for loads of fun for Tonka lovers.  This set allows little Chuck to perform tricks as he races around the track.  Start him at the top, and as you turn the handle to let down the track, you’ll activate sounds and lights.  Chuck even runs off track, too, so you can take him wherever you go!

Zoobles: Razoo’s Treehouse Playset
Ages 4 and older; $34.99
Spin Master; zoobles.com
These colorful little creatures roll about until they POP to life.  They’re cute, small and spring into action when they roll onto a special spot on the treehouse.  This set comes with one exclusive Zooble and one mini Zooble (additional characters sold separately for $5.99 – $9.99).

Weebles Musical Treehouse
Ages 18 months and older; $29.99
Playskool; hasbro.com
The Weebles rock about for silly fun in their treehouse.  Use the crank to help them go up the stairs and then watch them teeter and totter down the slide to the tune of four songs and eight different sounds.  Watch out!  They can even wobble right off the deck and still won’t fall down.

 

AGES 8 and Older

Anti-Gravity Web RunnerAmerican Idol Headphones
Ages 9 and older; $29.99
American Idol; idolmic.com
Kids can enjoy their favorite tunes via these new stereo bass-enhanced headphones.  Sound quality is great, and the padded ear pieces are comfortable (and safer than the buds that fit in the ear canal).

Anti-Gravity Web Runner
Ages 8 and older; $39.99
Fantasma Toys; agwebrunner.com
This is one black widow that’s OK to play with.  The remote control arachnid runs on floors, but the wow factor is due to the fact that it also runs up walls and operates upside down on the ceiling (smooth surfaces only) due to the vacuum device on its underside.  It’s a bit noisy, but a ton of fun for boys, for sure!

Bop It Bounce
Ages 8 and older; $21.99
Hasbro; hasbrogames.com
The newest Bop It game features six different skill games, all requiring players to obey commands and bounce the ball on the game unit.  Make sure you’ve got plenty of room, because you’ll wind up running around quite a bit, which is great exercise!

Easy•Bake Microwave & Style Deluxe Delights Cake & Cookie Kit
Ages 8 and older; $29.99
Hasbro; hasbro.com
If your little baker likes to help you in the kitchen when you’re making cookies or a special cake, then they are sure to like this kit.  Young chefs will be delighted to make their own stylish, tiny desserts – even using fondant!  There are 12 different tools, mixes and more.  You can even roll out the fondant you mixed on the patterned template to create a special touch to your pastry.  Be sure to follow the microwave cooking directions carefully so that you cakes and cookies turn out just right.

Halo UNSC
Pelican Dropship
Ages 8 and older; $59.99
Mega Bloks; megabrands.com
Big boys who love building an army will be thrilled by the new Halo collector’s series.  The UNSC Pelican Dropship includes 944 pieces for building one awesome air ship to create an army around.  The Pelican’s primary role is to deliver tropps, equipment and weaponry to and from forward combat positions.  Take your special forces into action!  View all of the items in the series at megabrands.com/en/kids/halo.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Scarf and Hat Set
Ages 8 and older; $24.95
Elope; harrygear.com
Your Harry Potter fan will be the envy of all her friends with this Hogwarts knit hat and scarf set.  The scarf measures 52 inches long (including tassels) by eight inches wide and features a Hogwarts crest on one end. The hat (100-percent acrylic) fits most kids up to age 15.  Material can be spot or dry cleaned.  Brilliant!

iCarly Portable CD Karaoke System
Ages 8 and older; $99
Sakar International; toysrus.com
This hot gadget will thrill iCarly fans everywhere.  The karaoke system includes a five-inch black-and-white monitor, a CD and graphics player, a head camera and dual microphone jacks (one mic is included) for use with a built-in speaker system.  For girls who love to sing, help ’em break out with this nifty jam machine!

iPod Nano
8GB is $149; 16GB is $179
Apple; http://store.apple.com
The newly designed iPod Nano will be a big hit this holiday – especially because of it’s redesign that includes a multi-touch screen.  Available in numerous shiny colors, your child’s playlist is always a touch away and don’t worry that she’ll lose it: a built-in clip keeps it safely attached to where its put.  Includes a built in FM radio, too.

Kids Electronic Rock Guitar Shirt
Ages 6 – 16; $29.99
Think Geek; thinkgeek.com
Rock like a rock star … without all the equipment!  Just put on this awesome shirt, insert four AAA batteries and play ’til your heart is content … or the batteries die.  It’s a regular T-shirt but with a 15-button thin strip and magnetic picks.  Available in small, medium or large.

The Slicer … All-Season Sled
Ages 8 and older; $79
Ice Meister; icesled.com
Use The Slicer on wintery days; it’s smooth contoured shape helps it to work well on packed snow or deep powder … But, in Tennessee, sometimes there’s no snow, right?  That’s where the all-season part comes in.  The Slicer has “Icers” you can freeze to form ice blocks you attach to the sled’s bottom – use it on the grass when there’s no snow in sight!

Spy Video TRAKR
Ages 8 and older; $129.99
Wild Planet; wildplanet.com
The latest installment in Wild Planet’s Spy Gear collection is the coolest one yet!  The Spy Video TRAKR is a remote control spy device that allows the user to see in the dark, and it features a bilt-in video/audio recorder and the unit plugs into the computer in order to download free apps.  The controller has a color video screen and speaker for instant playback.  Kids can create their own apps as well and upload to the spytraker.com community.

 

FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Libre eBook Reader PRO
All ages; $129.99
Aluratek; aluratek.com
Every member of your family can share a love for reading in the digital age with this nifty, new eBook reader featuring a five-inch screen with ePaper technology.  It comes with 100 books preloaded, including titles for everyone, and you can listen to music while reading.  Download new purchases and free books at borders.com/ebooks.

SodaStream
All ages; $99.95

Aluratek; aluratek.com

Enjoy fizzy beverages you can make in the convenience of your own home with this cool device that comes with two reusable bottles and a CO2 cartridge.  Simply attach a bottle filled with water and give the top of the device a couple of pumps to infuse instant carbonation (your kids will have fun doing this).  Choose from a wide selection of flavors to create soda (a less sugary alternative to store-bought soft drinks).

HOLIDAY READS

Christmas Cooking with Kids
All ages; $19.95
Ryland Peters & Small; rylandpeters.com
Author Annie Rigg serves up more than 60 fun holiday recipes you can have fun doing with your kids.  Find everything from adorable (and delicious) marzipan Christmas figures and sugar mice to coconut cake and marshmallow pops.  There are lots of festive things here to make your holiday season cheery with treats!

Record a Story: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
All ages; $19.99
Publications International; pilbooks.com
The Christmas season’s favorite story comes to life in this special version of Celment C. Moore’s tale.  It comes with a prerecorded narration with a musical underscore, but the best part is being able to record your own voice reading the story, so your kids can hear you reading to them with each turn of the page.

 

HOLIDAY TUNES

Home for the Holidays
Point of Grace
Word Entertainment; $13.99
Contemporary Christian music group Point of Grace delights with their new Christmas CD that is a pleasant mix of traditional favorites like “Joy to the World” and “Little Drummer Boy” with newer fare including “Candy Cane Lane” and “Not so Silent Night,” all with the trio’s signature contemporary sound with a slight country kick.

Kidz Bop Christmas Party
Kidz Bop
Razor & Tie; $11.98
Little ones can enjoy the sounds of the season performed by their peers on 15 classic tunes set to a rockin’, fresh sound track.  From “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” Kidz Bop Christmas Party is a fun way to ring in the holidays.

 

GAME ON!

Video games are popular for families and there’s a game for virtually everyone!  Here are a few to
consider for your older kids:

DJ Hero 2
Rated T for Teen; $99.99 bundle, $59.99 software only
(XBox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Activision; djhero.com
If you loved the first DJ Hero, then you will get even more hyped up for DJ Hero 2.  Create a party mix for your friends in the all-new freestyle mode. It is so cool, hip and unique and you can express your inner DJ for all to hear. Also, if you have the previous DJ Hero controller, hook it up along with the new one and see what you can do with TWO … or have a friend play along with you. It is so tempting to try to do mix on two turntables solo, but very hard. Another new aspect is that you can have one of your best pals hop in on the fun and sing/rap along with your DJ skills.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock
Rated T for Teen; $99.99 bundle, $59.99 software only
(XBox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Activision; guitarhero.com
Guitar Hero cranks out yet another fabulous game with Warriors of Rock! Not only do you get more than 90 rockin’ hits like “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper, “Suffocated” by Orianthi, “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways and so much more, you also get a wicked cool guitar (in the bundle pack only). This game is for those rockers in your house, so be prepared to hear it loud!

Sing It: Family Hits
Rated E for Everyone; $49.99 with mic (Wii, PlayStation 3)
Disney Interactive Studios
disney.com/singitfamilyhits
Relive those magical moments by singing along with your Disney lovers to their top hits like “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, “Be Our Guest” from The Beauty and The Beast, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella and many more songs from movies like Cars, Mary Poppins, The Lion King and more! The list seems to go on forever! The songs also play the clips from the movie it appears in. It’s your chance, parents, to play a game with your child that you both can do easily, especially if you have favorites in the Disney realm … much like I do. It is certainly fun for the whole family. Don’t worry if you can’t sing right on tune, there is even a vocal coach.

Toy Story 3: The Video Game
Rated E10+

Ages 6 and older; $49.99

(XBox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Disney Interactive Studios
disneyinteractivestudios.com

If you love the movie, chances are you are gonna love the game. Although you may have some of the younger audience that likes the movie, this game may not be for them as parts of the game are actually kinda hard … from a kids point of view. Pick one of your favorite characters (Buzz, Woody or Jessie) to start a story mode that takes them on a quest to save all the toys and take part in scenes you’ll see right from the movie.  There is also Toy Box mode which allows you to pick whatever you want to do in whatever you want to do it in. Simply roam around the place and have fun!

 

GOT GEAR?

If you have lots of gaming gear and don’t know what to do with it, clean it up with Level Up.

Storage Tower Zig-Zag
XBox 360; $69.99
Level Up
levelupgear.com
The Storage Tower holds 13 games, four controllers, two guitars and one console.  It’s easy to put together, too!  Perfect to clean up the game room.  Level Up also offers other stations for the different gaming consoles: Alloy for PlayStation, Aperture for Wii and Trideca for Wii.

 

GETTIN’ CRAFTY

Moon Dough Barn
Ages 3 and older; $19.99
Spin Master; moondough.com
After you mold your hay bales, insert them into the top of the barn, crank the handle and out pops one of four farm animals through the front door.  Your little one will have hours of fun.  The set comes with three colors, several molds, barn, mat and more.

Fuzzoodles Fluffy Friends
Ages 5 and older; $19.99
GiddyUp!, fuzzoodles.com
These fuzzy, reusable, bendy noodles will activate your child’s creativity for lots of creature-making fun.  This set comes with 10 Fuzzoodles (four short and six long) and 10 Fuzzoodle parts like eyes, skirts, bow ties and more.  It also comes with a great idea book to help you.

Color Blanks
Ages 6 and older; $9.99
RoseArt; megabrands.com
Let your child’s creativity explode with these blank plastic 3D bodies that come with markers, stickers and more.  Simply color different patterns to produce a unique creation.

New From Crayola
Crayola has several fun, new items this season.  Our favorites include Model Magic Presto Dots (Ages 5 and older; $24.99) that allow kids to create a variety of puffy, fluffy creatures … Color Twister Spin Art (Ages 6 and older; $15.99) lets youngsters create an amazing array of colorful art with wild patterns.

 

SUPER BOOKS!

DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book
Ages 4 – 12; $29.99
Little, Brown and Company
hachettebookgroup.com
The magnificent pop-ups by Matthew Reinhart bring your favorite super heroes – and villains – to life with this comic-style book.  For those who are new to the world of DC, the back page springs to life more than 40 DC characters like Aquaman, Giganta, Mister Freeze and more – with a key to tell you who’s who.  Each page also has mini pop-up sections.

The Sounds of Star Wars
By J.W. Rinzler
Ages 8 and older; $60
Lucas Books/Chronical Books
chroniclebooks.com
An absolute must for the Star Wars fan in your family, this out-of-this-world book chronicles the sound effects in all six live action movies.  Based on interviews with Ben Burtt (the man behind the sound design), 256 sound effects from the films are explained, and the attached digital sound player allows readers to hear each one throughout the book.  

DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle
Ages 12 and older; $50
DK Books; dk.com
This is the ultimate collection of all-things DC Comics, and it goes back to the beginning 75 years ago.  From there, comic enthusiasts can go through each month of each year to present day learning about the history and growth of DC Comics, including the debuts of Batman and Superman.  Other favorites like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern and more are also found throughout the giant, colorful pages adorned with stunning comic book art.

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