Holiday Toy & Gift Guide 2010
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Click on pictures for reviews or buying information; prices (including best/worst deals) are meant as a guide and were true at the time of posting (retailers continuously change prices so we apologize if a "deal" is no longer current).
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Educational Books, DVDs and Games
Little Pim Language DVDs
Little Pim- Foreign Language DVDs for ages 0 to 5 in Arabic, English (ESL), French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian & Spanish - see our review
Leapster 2 Learning System - ages 4 to 8; Leapfrog's handheld learning system with more than 40 games with popular characters including Disney Princess and Toy Story; green or pink console or limited edition princess Leapster; average price $39.99 plus the cost of games; sold at Leapfrog, Amazon, Toys R Us, Walmart (which sells bundles of the console & games), Target
MobiGo Learning System - ages 3 to 8; V-Tech's handheld; touch-activated screen and a QWERTY slide-out keyboard; dozens of games with popular characters including Disney Princess, Mickey Mouse & Cars ; comes in blue or pink with one game cartridge; average price is $59.99; sold at Vtech, Amazon, Sears, Target, KMart, Walmart & Toys R Us; Walmart has best price of $49.54 (if you can get them); Amazon also good price of $49.99 with free shipping
Game Console Systems
XBox 360 - Microsoft's gaming console, the first high-definition gaming system that also acts as a DVD player What makes it a hot holiday item? Kinect, offers interactive game play but without any controllers because it uses a motion sensor & allows voice control; XBox 360 4 GB console retails for $199 & XBox with Kinect retails for $299 (4 GB) & $399 (250 GB) review of XBox 360 with Kinect
Play Station 3 (PS3)- Sony's gaming console that also acts as a Blu-Ray player with 1080 pixel resolution; What makes it a hot holiday item? Besides being touted as the best Blu-Ray Player, there is the Playstation Move that offers a more interactive gaming experience with a special camera and wands; kid-friendly games like Eyepet to more gritty games for hard-core players such as Resident Evil; PS3 sells for about $299 and if you already own it you can get a Move starter bundle for about $99; if you don't, pretty much everyone is selling the PS3 with Move for $399 but you might find a good starter bundle at Walmart; not as many games yet but several in production; summary & review of Playstation Move
Wii - Nintendo's gaming console which was the first interactive system where you use controllers to be part of the action; What makes it a hot holiday item? It allows for interactive play & even fitness while appealing to a broad user base; lots of games for the family to enjoy together; retails for $199 but you can get it with Wii Fit Plus at Walmart for $249 & there are various other starter bundles
Which "interactive' console suits you?
Our summary of the pros & cons based on in-depth reviews, including those from MSNBC and PCMag
XBox 360 with Kinect - Pluses - no controllers; will get you moving with a good selection of dance & exercise games as well as family games such as Kinectimals; might be a happy medium between Wii & Playstation Move, offering better graphics than Wii & a larger selection of games (so far) than Move Minuses - you need a lot of room: the sensor needs to be 2-6 feet off the floor & 1 player needs to be 6 feet away from the sensor while 2 players need to be 8 feet away plus you need 6 feet of side-to-side play space, so if you have a small room, it won't work well; some people complain of lag time between when you move & when your character moves on screen
Play Station 3 with Move - Pluses - acts as a Blu-Ray Player, possibly the best; don't need as much room as Kinect; great graphics that will appeal to the hard-core gamer or those who feel the Wii graphics are lacking; great game for kids with Eyepet that really shows off the console's potential; Minuses - you need a wand controller as well as a regular controller, sometimes two wands for certain games, which can be a bit of a learning curve, especially for younger players; not as many games available right now but more options coming
Nintendo Wii - Pluses - lots of kid-friendly games & for those who want some exercise, there is the Wii Fit Plus; easy to get started, especially for younger users; wide variety of games; with a retail price of $199 for the console or with the Wii Fit Plus at Walmart for $249, it is the cheapest complete system Minuses - simple graphics will not appeal to the more discerning gamers who would probably prefer the visual aspects of the Kinect or the Move; lag & jerky response from the Wii controllers
Potentially Hot Toys
Some of the hot toys this year?
Airhogs Hawk Eye Helicopter - ages 8 & up; indoor, flying helicopter that takes up to 5 min of video or several photos that can be downloaded to your computer; sold at Walmart, Amazon, Target & Toys R Us (best price); $64.99
Sing-A-Ma-Jigs - 3 to 6 years; plush toys that sing when squeezed; characters have different vocal ranges and can sing alone or harmonize with other Sing-A-Ma-Jigs; average price about $13; sold at Toys R Us, Target, Amazon (most expensive), Walmart has best price of $9 if you can find them
Zhu Zhu Pets - ages 4 & up; toy hamsters that squeak and zoom around; also have outfits & other accessories; average price $10 but can be found for as low as $4.99; available at retailers including eToys, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart and Amazon
Disney Princess & Me Dolls - ages 6 & up; 18-in dolls (see doll section for more info); sold at Disney Store, Amazon, Toys R Us; $49.50 average price at Disney & Toys R Us; Amazon sold many for twice that
A Little Bit Different
Strong Start Solar Laptop - for ages 4 & up; preschool games & activities, plus 10 number buttons that convert to a musical keyboard; uses 3 AA batteries while solar panel recharges; $39.95 at Young Explorers; Amazon sells a similar solar laptop for $34.95
Recordable Story Books - all ages; Hallmark offers 15 titles for $29.95 (but you can now take $10 off) where you can record your voice; Amazon also sells books ranging from $5 to $20, depending on the title; a great gift idea for the child who doesn't live nearby
Personalized Books - kids who can read will appreciate this more but all ages will enjoy literally becoming part of the story when his or her name is included in the narrative; Identity Direct sells the major brands such as Disney Fairies for $12.99; DH Books also offers personalized books for $12.95 for superheroes like Batman, Scooby Doo and Sesame Street and other titles for $10.95
Lego Duplo Play with Numbers - for ages 2 to 5; big blocks ideal for little builders and for a bonus, they can help teach numbers; $25; can be found at retailers including Walmart, Amazon (the cheapest with free shipping), Sears, Target, Toys R Us (seemed most expensive). Note: some retailers call it Duplo Learning 5497
Fisher Price Little People Farm - ages 1 to 5; barn that makes sounds, Little People animals & farmer; the youngest will learn what sounds animals make & older kids will enjoy playing with the set (& hearing the sounds); really any Little People set is a great imaginative toy that grows with boys & girls; the farm retails for $40 but you can find it for less at Toys R Us, Walmart & Amazon but best price at Target for $29.09
B. Toys Parum Pum Pum Drum - suggested for 18 to 24 months (but preschoolers will enjoy; see review); a drum and other instruments including a tamborine and maraca; retailers include Target (in stores only), Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Barnes & Noble (BBB & B&N were most expensive) $20
Felt Tales Storyboards - ages 2 (with parent) & 3 to 7; parents & kids can create stories & scenes with felt people & animals; fosters imaginative play; various boards/scenes from farm animals, to pirates to princesses; average price is $19.95 at Buy.com, Babaluinc & sometimes Toys R Us, which but you can find them cheaper; for example, a pirate & princess on are selling on Amazon for $15
Encyclopedia Britannica Talking USA Puzzle - for ages 4 & older (choking hazard for under 3 yrs); talking puzzle has a voice that identifies the state name, capital city and nickname for each of the 50 states; retailers include Amazon, Toys R Us, Target, Walmart; $25
Learn & Groove Musical Table - for ages 6 to 36 months (although my 4-year-old still loves it so you'll get a lot of mileage out of it); you can get bilingual spanish/english; available at Amazon, Leapfrog, Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Ebay (these are pretty durable so used should be fine, but confirm condition); best price $35.54 (with free shipping) at Amazon
Learning Mats - ages 3 & up; Melissa & Doug wipe-off mats for letters, numbers & more; great as a small gift; perfect for travel; $10 to $12; sold at Melissa & Doug; best price about $5 on Amazon (w/shipping chg); you can sometimes find a generic version of these in the $1 section of Target but they're not as well made
Lamaze Plush Learning Toys - infant to toddler; cute animals with crinkly limbs, jingling parts and different textures for little ones to explore; variety of animals including Stretch the Giraffe & Henry the Hippo; about $10 to $12; sold at Amazon, Kohls, Babies R Us
Hi-Tech Wish Lists for Santa
You can avoid the long lines at the malls & hop on your computer to tell Santa your holiday list.
Kids (with parents) can chat with Santa online, send him an email & even get a personalized email from Santa Claus.