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My Holiday Toy Guide

Every holiday, people always ask me what’s the “hot” toy of the year. There hasn’t been a runaway bestseller in years, but there are still plenty of great options. Here are my top picks for the 2007 Holiday Season.

TuluTulu Rattle (Manhattan Toy) $15. The Tulu is designed in partnership with Hoberman Transformable Design and expands and contracts just like the famous Hoberman Sphere. Babies appreciate the bright colors, multiple tactile surfaces and the many easy-to-grip joints, while adults won’t be able to put it down either. (3 months +)

Kushies PupaPupa Caterpillar (Kushies) $60. The Pupa comes with 8 soft spheres that connect to form a caterpillar. Each sphere plays a different note of the scale, allowing for endless musical fun. 12 months and up.

Barnyard BlastBarnyard Blast (International Playthings) $65. OK, I’ll admit, this is definitely not a toy for parents who enjoy peace and quiet. It is a noisy one. But for those of you who don’t mind, your kids will absolutely love this. There are four vegeta-balls that can go careening down the ramp, and they trigger songs and other sounds. Plus there are four removable animals that also play music and cue lights. 18 months and up.

Follow Me FredFollow Me Fred (Tiny Love) $25. New from Tiny Love, Fred is a charming little dog who scoots around the room encouraging little crawlers to follow behind. The accordion-shaped body can be bent for circular movement or kept straight to go the distance. 6 months and up.

Q Ba MazeQ Ba Maze (Q-Ba-Maze Inc.) $20-$50. This translucent marble maze will captivate just about anyone with a knack for building things, regardless of age. You can build freeform or follow one of many architectural plans on the company’s website. Ages 5 and up.

Lea Interactive DollLea Interactive Doll (Corolle) $90. When it comes to tech toys, dolls probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind. But Lea is a successful integration of technology and good old-fashioned play. Depending on which bracelet she is wearing, Lea will converse in four different languages, and she giggles when you tickle her feet. Because the technology is fairly responsive, the child still gets to guide the play. Ages 3 and up.

Stepping Into ScienceLittle Labs Science Experiments (Thames & Kosmos) $35. T&K has built a reputation for making the top-of-the-line science kits. The topics are always interesting and their approach is rooted in teaching concepts and skills. Now, they’ve released their Little Labs series, for young scientists ages 5 and up. I love the Stepping Into Science kit, which includes 25 simple experiments and a nicely done, bilingual (English-Spanish) instruction manual that is mostly pictoral. This particular kit is also manufactured in Germany, for what it’s worth.

Playmobil ArenaPlaymobil Arena (Playmobil) $90. Sure, the Roman Gladiators weren’t exactly nice guys. But there’s just something about the new Roman series from Playmobil that just sparks the imagination. Chariot races, catapults, warriors, and ships are all enticing, but the Arena is the crown jewel. Ages 4 and up.

BananagramsBananagrams (Bananagrams) $15. This game is a personal favorite of mine, and based on how many we’ve sold, I’m not alone. These little, banana-shaped word games are flying off the shelves. Ages 7 and up.

Dado CubesDado Cubes & Squares (Fat Brain Toys) $19.99 and up. The concept is simple, and there’s no batteries necessary. It’s just a clever twist on a basic construction toy. The colors are bright and the possibilities are endless. Plus they’re designed and made in the USA. Ages 3 and up.

Castle LogixCastle Logix (Educational Insight) $20. This year, Educational Insights released a bunch of single-player logic games that were just phenomenal. I love them all, but Castle Logix is the most popular. Using the wooden castle pieces, kids must rearrange the shapes to replicate a picture. The difficulty level ranges widely, making this a great game for the whole family. Ages 5 and up.

Rubik’s RevolutionRubik’s Revolution (Techno Source) $20. Though there are some in our office who dismiss the Rubik’s Revolution as annoying, I find it addictive. There’s a nice range of different games and I think using Rubik’s cube form was a neat idea. Ages 5 and up.

Blue Retro KitchenBlue Retro Kitchen (Kidkraft) $200. It’s not even December, and Kidkraft has already sold out of their popular Grill n’ Bake Kitchen. We have a few of those left, but what we really love is the new Blue Retro Kitchen. Designed to look like a 1950’s kitchen with a robin’s egg blue color scheme and silver accents, this kitchen is already a big hit in our new stores. Ages 3 and up.

Karito Kids GiaKarito Kids (Kids Give) $99. It was love at first sight for me and these dolls. They are just amazingly beautiful, and I really liked their proportions – the narrower, lighter bodies make them easier for smaller children to handle without sacrificing the detail that makes the American Girls dolls so appealing. Plus, there’s a nice, charity-focused online component, too. Ages 6 and up.

Webkinz MonkeyWebkinz (Ganz) $8 and up. This phenomenon has taken on a life of its own, but I don’t think the craze is over quite yet. The Webkinz have sold so well that Ganz has been able to pour ample resources into the development of the online component, making it one of the best sites out there for kids. Ages 4 and up.

Magna TilesMagna Tiles (Valtech) $32.99 and up. These used to be the best kept secret in the store, a fantastic product that simply flew under the radar. Not anymore. The word is spreading like wildfire, and Magna Tiles are very hot this holiday season. Ages 3 and up.

RodyRody (ToyMarketing International) $40. This inflatable bouncy horse is not new, but he’s a constant bestseller, especially during the holidays. Manufactured in Italy by the same company that makes Gymnic balls, Rody is constructed of super-strong latex-free vinyl. Recommended for ages 2-4 with adult supervision.

Pieceless PuzzlePieceless Puzzles (Ceaco) $12 and up. Pure genius. A puzzle with no pieces to lose. The new Pieceless Puzzles from Ceaco are cut from a solid piece of thick, spongy material that’s probably best described as mousepad-like. There are three different assortments, each at a different level of difficulty. All the puzzles are two-sided, for twice the fun. I really, really love these. Ages 4 and up, 8 and up or 12 and up, depending on difficulty level.

Do a DotDo-a-Dot Markers (Do-a-Dot Company) $15 and up. These are basically colorful bingo markers, but because they’re made in the USA, they will be a popular choice this holiday season. I love them because they’re a great, minimally messy first art activity for very young children, but older kids enjoy them, too. The activity books are a nice way to guide the creativity for budding artists, or just let them loose on any (large) piece of paper.

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