It's that time of year again. Before you step inside the mall or wrack your brain trying to come up with the perfect holiday gift idea for your little one, read on. Deana Hanson, manager of Fun Stuff Toys in Seaford (www.fstoys.com), an independent toy store on the Island for over 25 years, shared with us some of the biggest trends and recommended toys of the holiday season.
"We're trying to focus on getting families to bring 'game night' back," she says, adding that many shoppers have been asking about board games. Double Shutter by Blue Orange Games is a hot item, (in which kids try to find the best combinations of numbers that will shut two rows of nine titles utilizing math probability and strategy) as well as the company's balancing game Chicky Boom and Gobblet Gobblers, which features characters to line up. Another trend is that people are looking for "green" toys made from recycled materials...
Kitchen play sets are popular for that girl on your list, while boys enjoy craft items and a popular game called Dodge Tag, which Hanson says is "selling like crazy." Two players wear a Velcro vest with balls that stick to it and play a dodgeball match.
"When you're stuck with three balls you're out," she explains. For toddlers, Hanson recommends Melissa and Doug's Grocery Cart, which looks just like the real thing and tots just love to push around.
There's also a stand-out item recommended for all ages. "We have this little squishy thing, Blobby Robby. He's like jelly on the inside...the kids are going crazy....someone must have brought it into school," she laughs. Blobby Robby is a smiling desk side toy made by Toysmith that comes in a variety of colors. You can squeeze and distort his body and pull on his rubbery hair.
Rose Marie Kurt, manager of Learning Tower Toys (www.learningtower.com) in Port Jefferson Station says that items made out of cloth are hot this year. She recommends Pockets of Learning, which makes a variety of cloth products for children up to 3 years old, including wall hangings and cloth books. For kids 18 months and up, the company makes cloth Press & Dress Dolls, modeled after paper dolls. Kids interchange clothes that feature Velcro for easy pressing and dressing. For girls, mosaics and anything by Klutz, including jewelry-making, knitting, croqueting, and embroidery, are popular, while both girls and boys will enjoy science experiment kits to explore volcanoes, test their DNA, or create video recorders and FM radios with Snap Circuit kits by Elenco.
Read on for top recommendations by Jonathan Samet and Laurie Schacht, copublishers of The Toy Insider.
Elmo Tickle Hands, 18 mos+
Touch a surface with Elmo's interactive hand and it will vibrate. Kids will hear silly sound effects and fun phrases. In dance mode, the hands recognize movements and guide kids through Elmo's new dance. $29.99 Fisher-Price, www.fisher-price.com
Mega Bloks Play 'N Go Table, 1+
Kids can build right on top of this table and store pieces inside. With fold-up legs and a carry handle, it's great for travel. Comes with 20 Maxi Mega Bloks, four scenes, stickers, a figure, and a vehicle. $39.99 Mega Brands, www.megabrands.com
My Pal Scout & My Pal Violet, 6 mos+
These plush puppies can be personalized with the child's name and favorite things, which are then incorporated into activities, songs, and dialogue. Parents can customize Scout's playlist online. $19.99 LeapFrog, www.leapfrog.com
Tonka Chuck My Talking Truck, 2+
This friendly truck is fully interactive and will roll forward when called. Chuck has over 40 onboard phrases to encourage play, such as "We've got work to do!" $29.99 Tonka, www.tonka.com
1-2-3 Stomp!, 3+
Kids stomp their feet to send numbers flying, then run to retrieve them. It can be played solo or in teams, indoors or out. Starts with color and number recognition, advances to more complex commands. $19.99 Wild Planet, www.wildplanet.com
Liv Dolls, 5+
Each Liv doll opens an online world featuring the doll's daily diaries, fashions in their virtual closet, webisodes, games, and more. Dolls are easy to pose, and interchangeable wigs allow for easy, fun hair play! $17.99 Spin Master, www.spinmaster.com
Rocky the Robot Truck, 3+
This fully functional dump truck will have kids laughing as he stands up, squats, shakes, tells jokes, and dances. Rocky has interactive sensors, his lights flash, and he says over 100 phrases. $59.99 Matchbox, www.matchbox.com
Tightrope Terror, 5+
GX Racers are the new standard of insane speed and amazing action. Complete with a tight rope over 10 feet long, Tightrope Terror allows kids to race their car on a thread! $19.99 Jakks Pacific, www.jakkspacific.com
Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Optimus Prime, 5+
In robot mode, this mighty warrior features electronic speech and light-up eyes and chest. In truck mode, get in gear with engine revving, racing and cool conversion sounds that let you know this hero means business! $44.99 Hasbro, www.hasbro.com, www.transformers.com
Zippity Learning System, 3+
LeapFrog and Disney introduce a TV-based gaming system for preschoolers that combines full body movement, music, education, and fun. Kids dance on the foldable mat and use the bopper to play games wirelessly with Disney characters. $79.99 LeapFrog, www.leapfrog.com
Air Hogs Zero Gravity Laser, 8+
The latest evolution in indoor all-surface R/C racing. This fully functional R/C car drives on the floor, up the walls, and even upside down! Its laser guided control allows it to go wherever you point it. $39.99 Spin Master, www.spinmaster.com
Bakugan 7 in 1 Maxus Dragonoid, 5+
Introducing the most incredible Bakugan yet! The Maxus Drago combines six Bakugan Trap and one Dragonoid Bakugan to create the ultimate monster. Package includes one Gate Card and one Ability Card. $39.99 Spin Master, www.spinmaster.com, www.bakugan.com
Battle Strikers Turbo Tops Tourament Set, 6+
The next generation of battling tops. Rev them up with a Turbo Launcher, then control their movement as you battle with a magnetic finger controller featuring MagNext technology. Set includes two Strikers, two Launchers, two Controllers, and the arena. Starter Set $14.99, Deluxe Set $34.99 Mega Brands, www.megabrands.com
Girl Gourmet Sweets Candy Jewel Factory, 8+
Little fashionistas can design, bake, wear, and eat candy necklaces, bracelets, and rings! Just fill the molds with the candy chips and pellets and add sprinkles to decorate. Bake for seven minutes and mold into sweet creations! $29.99 Jakks Pacific, www.jakkspacific.com
Moxie Girlz, 6+
Moxie Girlz encourage girls to embrace their individuality and "Be True! Be You!" Themes include art and fashion, hair styling, and music, allowing girls to express themselves in a variety of ways. $19.99 MGA Entertainment, www.moxiegirlz.com
Printies Design Studio Kits, 6+
Turn your own designs into stuffed animals! Design online at myprinties.com, print your creation onto fabric sheets, and fill with stuffing. No sewing, cutting, or ironing required. With millions of combinations, what will you create? $19.99 Techno Source, www.technosourcehk.com
Power Miners Titanium Command Rig, 8+
Transform the rig from a vertical drilling platform that pulverizes rock with its titanium planetary drill to a powerful escape vehicle! Examine the caged blue rock monster in the lab, but watch out for his partner! $99.99 Lego, www.lego.com
Star Wars the Force Trainer, 8+
The deeper your concentration and mental focus, the greater your ability to move the Training Sphere up or down the Training Tower. Progress from Padawan to Jedi Master as you use "The Force" through all 15 levels. $84.99 Uncle Milton, www.unclemilton.com
Style Six Silk Screener, 8+
Kids can tap into their creative side with the Silk Screener by layering on trendy printed graphics to T-shirts and other fashion pieces! Simply clamp the fabric into the frame, choose a stencil, and roll on the paint. $39.99 Jakks Pacific, www.jakkspacific.com
Twilight Scene It? The DVD Game: Deluxe Edition, 13+
Test your Twilight movie knowledge with this Scene It? game! This game features heart-stopping movie clips, questions, and puzzlers from the hugely popular Twilight franchise and includes content from this fall's film, New Moon. $39.99 Screenlife, www.screenlifegames.com
Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Dolls Galore
Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Toys for Boys