Top 10 Toys of the Year: Editor's Picks
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10. For older kids stuck inside, Hyper Dash gets kids moving. The game, which requires at least two square feet of room (it can also be played in a larger space outside) is like a grown-up Twister. There is an electronic tagger and five colored and numbered plastic targets. The tagger plays music and calls out the target you need to touch. You can play with just one person, trying to beat your time, or with up to eight people. There is a memory component where you have to remember a long list of commands; math is also involved, when you have to tag a number based on an addition or subtraction problem. From Wild Planet, for ages 6-12; $19.99 at Target or www.shopwildplanet.com.
Kids’ music sung by parents’ favorite artists is a win-win situation. The Every Child Deserves a Lifetime: Songs from the ‘For Our Children’ Series CD also benefits the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation. Carole King sings “Child of Mine”, Bob Dylan sings “This Old Man”, and Bruce Springsteen offers his take on “Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips”. There are a few unexpected artists: Seal sings “Puff the Magic Dragon” and Ziggy Marley sings “Give a Little Love”. This is one for the family car and a grown-up’s iPod. $13.98 from Shout! Factory, www.shoutfactory.com.
The Nintendo DS can be used to help with homework. My French Coach and My Spanish Coach are great ways to get kids who are not enjoying foreign language study to play games and improve vocabulary in another language; parents can use it to bone up on their high school French or Spanish. From Ubisoft, $29.99 each at GameStop, www.gamestop.com.
Girls who don’t usually like video games may be lured in by High School Musical: Sing It! for Wii and Playstation 2. These are karaoke games where you can sing along with the movies’ stars. There are 30 songs, plus bonus footage from the movie, and cast interviews. For High School Musical fans 8 and up. $59.99 for Wii (with a microphone); $49.99 for PS2 with a mic, $39.99 without. From Disney Interactive, at www.amazon.com.
If you like doing crossword puzzles or making anagrams, Word Spot, Jr. is for you. The game has tiles, each with four letters in a grid. Four tiles are placed together, and you highlight each word you find with translucent tiles. You can reuse letters to form words in different directions; the goal is to find words and get rid of your tiles. For ages 7 and up, $19.95 at The Scholastic Store, www.scholastic.com.
Two new ways to learn guitar:
—I Can Play, from Fisher-Price, for ages 6 and up, plugs into the TV and has color-coded finger positions. You learn in different steps, from strums and rhythm with the right hand, to following color patterns with the left hand to play notes. The final step incorporates both hands and can include accompanists. $99.99.
—The Power Tour Electric Guitar from Tiger Electronics, has touch sensors, not strings, and you learn the 12 included songs (like “Wild Thing”) segment by segment. This mini Gibson guitar is cool because you can connect an iPod or other MP3 player and play along once you learn the basics. $69.99 for ages 10 and up. Both at www.amazon.com.
Npower is a new line of Nickelodeon-themed electronics designed for young kids, and its two cameras are surprisingly well-featured and easy to use. The Flash Jr. Rugged Digital Camera has Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego Go! designs and can be dropped by preschoolers, then used again. It has large buttons for small hands to manipulate, and a 1.4 inch preview screen. $59.99 for ages 3 and up. At Best Buy; get more info at www.imation.com. VTech has the Kidizoom camera for ages 3 and up, which takes pictures and short videos. It connects to a TV or PC for photo and video playback and editing; you can also play puzzle games. $59.99 at Toys R Us; get more info at www.vtechkids.com.
The movie Hairspray was rated PG, but is really appropriate for all ages. The 2-disc DVD “Shake and Shimmy” could have the whole family dancing and singing along. In fact, the DVD has a sing-along feature, and a step-by-step tutorial on the movie’s dances. Deleted scenes and a new song offer even more Hairspray. From New Line Home Entertainment, $34.98 at Barnes & Noble. Find out more about the movie at www.hairspraymovie.com.