Cathy Jett is the assistant business editor at The Free Lance-Star, and specializes in covering the area's retail scene.
Psst, Santa! Here’s what’s hot
Major chains have already issued their “wish books” for the holidays, but how do you know what’s age appropriate AND likely to be on a child’s must-have list?
I checked with Target, Toys R Us, Walmart and Fredericksburg’s own Quilts N Treasures for a story on hot toys for 2010. It will appear in The Free Lance-Star’s annual Holiday Gift Guide on Nov. 11.
Toys R Us sent by far the most comprehensive list, which is broken down by age groups. It was too much information to include in my article, so I’ve included the entire list here:
Baby’s First Christmas
Go Baby Go Stride-to-Ride Dino from Fisher-Price
There to assist little ones as they begin to take their first steps, this friendly-faced prehistoric pal will have tiny tots stomping along in no time! Featuring a large wheel base and sturdy handle bar, this dino makes the perfect walker for little ones preparing to take their first steps. While in motion, three lights on the dino’s head will dance along as music plays, including three songs, two tunes and five fun sound effects. When a child is ready to ride their dinosaur, rather than walk behind it, moms can easily slide the two rear legs together to create a comfy seat. 3 “AA” batteries required (included). Ages 9 months to 3 years.
Ocean Wonders Deep Blue Sea Table from Fisher-Price
Loaded with fun ocean-themed activities for babies and toddlers, this Toys R Us exclusive starts an under-sea adventure when children roll the ball – with a friendly fish inside – to activate sounds, lights, music and more. Little ones will love controlling the dancing lights on the tabletop whenever they slide the seashell door back and forth. Kids can also turn a starfish around to hear fun bubble noises and flip the pages of the attached book to hear a silly sound! 3 “AA” batteries required (included). Ages 9 months to 36 months.
13 months to 2 years
1-2-3 Large Zoo from Playmobil
Young animal lovers will be delighted with this playset, which comes with everything needed to create an imaginary day at the zoo and is available exclusively at Toys R Us. The bright colors, chunky pieces and rounded animal figures, including a giraffe, monkey, elephant, zebra, horse, lamb and more, are easy for little ones to grab and place on display. Additional figures and pieces, including a family of four, zookeeper and bench for spectators, complete the set and make for hours of pretend zoo fun. No batteries required. Ages 1 ½ and up.
Disney Dance Star Mickey from Fisher-Price
Kids can get into the groove with their fun-loving pal, Mickey Mouse as he takes over the dance floor. Just by pressing Mickey’s foot, the marvelous mouse comes to life as he dances along to one of six different songs in a variety of musical stylings, such as Disco, Techno and Latin – he even does the “Moonwalk.” Children can dance along or play interactive games with Mickey, including “Mickey Says” and “Freeze Dance.” 6 “AA” batteries required (included). Ages 2 years and up. This item will be available starting October 5.
Lil’ Zoomers Spinnin’ Sounds Speedway from Fisher-Price
From rattling cars and zooming speedway sounds to lively music and flashing lights, little ones will stay captivated by this fast-moving miniature racetrack. Kids can make the easy-to-grasp, shake-and-roll cars travel down a ramp and into a light-up raceway where they whiz and swirl around until the spinning action sends each vehicle through the exit. The first car to zip under the spinning flag wins this wacky race. 4 “C” batteries required (not included). Ages 6 months and up.
Ladybug Smart Trike from SmarTrike
Whether going on a stroll with Mom and Dad or learning how to ride a tricycle, little ones will love this red and black-themed grow-with-me tricycle that offers three distinct modes and is available exclusively at Toys R Us. Featuring a full metal frame and handle, parents can push their children around town using the adjustable handle, while a built in clutch switches control of the vehicle between the parent and child. Kids can stop on their own with the included foot brake system. The Smart Trike can also be outfitted with a washable seat cover and a red and black canopy to keep toddlers shaded while riding, and an included play phone lets kids cruse the neighborhood while pretending to talk to their friends. Additionally, a storage bucket lets kids take their favorite treasures along on any adventure. 2 “AA” batteries required. Ages 10 to 36 months.
2 to 4 years
BABY ALIVE Bouncin’ Babbles from Hasbro
Little ones will love playing “mommy” to this energetic doll that that moves and makes babbling sounds, just like a real toddler. Kids grab hold of their baby’s hands to watch her spring to life, bouncing as she plays. Showing off her wide eyes and huge smile, BABY ALIVE BOUNCIN’ BABBLES is barely able to contain her excitement, chattering and chuckling as she bops up and down. 3 “AA” batteries required (included). Ages 3 years and up.
Calico Critters Luxury Townhouse from International Playthings
This four-room, two-story, spacious townhouse features enough space for an entire family of Calico Critters and their Cloverleaf Corner friends, available exclusively at Toys R Us. Boasting a balcony and an outdoor patio, this luxury playset is the finest home in the Cloverleaf Corner Community. Measuring 12 x 12 inches, the house has many amenities, including chandelier fixtures and customizable décor pieces to offer children hours of open-ended pretend play, as well as fun and easy storage for all of their Calico Critters. 2 “AA” batteries required. Ages 4 to 6 years.
Disney-Pixar “Toy Story 3” Imaginext Tri-County Landfill from Fisher-Price
Kids can relive the climax of “Toy Story 3” with this Toys R Us exclusive playset that recreates the Tri-County Landfill movie scene where everyone’s favorite toys were almost incinerated! Just like in the movie, the toys can be picked up in a giant scoop and then dropped into a sorter before landing on a conveyor belt that leads to an incinerator. Featuring two-inch scale versions of Buzz Lightyear, Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear and three Aliens, kids can plan a great escape using the “claw” or anything else that sparks their imagination. No batteries required. Ages 3 to 6 years.
Geotrax Transportation System Christmas in Toy Town RC Set from Fisher-Price
All aboard for a Christmas of WOWs with this Toys R Us exclusive radio-controlled train set, designed for the smallest engineers. Featuring more than 20 pieces of interchangeable Snap-Lock track, children can reconstruct Toy Town many different ways, whether they want to create a traditional city or add holiday cheer by making the train travel around the Christmas tree. Kids can even trim their town with miniature wreaths, trees and more, while Christmas music plays from both the train and controller. 3 “AA” and 15 “AAA” batteries required (included). Ages 2 to 7 years. This item will be available in November.
Imaginext BIGFOOT the Monster from Fisher-Price
The legendary Bigfoot has left the forest and landed in homes, not as a mythical creature, but as a remote-controlled friend. Featuring over 80 actions and phrases, Bigfoot stomps around, throws tantrums, exercises, somersaults, naps and more when kids press buttons on a foot-shaped remote control. Each button on the included remote features a symbol, making it easy for kids to use, even before they learn how to read. Bigfoot also comes with a ball he can toss and food for munching. 2 “AA” (not included) and 1 “7.2 V” (included) batteries required. Ages 3 to 8 years.
Lalaloopsy from MGA Entertainment
Once traditional rag dolls, each of these 13-inch dolls magically came to life when their very last stitch was sewn. With different personalities based on the fabrics used when they were created, kids will have fun choosing which Lalaloopsy’s personality best matches their own. Kids can select Spot Splatter Splash, Pillow Featherbed, Crumbs Sugar Cookie, Bea Spells-a-Lot, Dot Starlight, Jewel Sparkles, Mittens Fluff ‘n’ Stuff and Peanut Big Top before learning about each doll’s unique personality. No batteries required. Ages 4 years and up.
Pillow Pets from Ontel Products Corp.
Combining the functionality of a pillow with the security of a plush pet, these foldable, fluffy creatures are ready for snuggling whether it’s naptime or playtime. Kids can quickly convert these 18-inch fuzzy friends from pillow to animal by opening and closing a Velcro strap across their pet’s belly. With dozens of animals to choose from, including lions, tigers, bears, puppies, giraffes, ladybugs, unicorns and more, children will have a new friend and the perfect slumber party companion. No batteries required. Ages 3 years and up.
Small Schoolhouse from Playmobil
Kids can finally rule the classroom with this fully furnished, Toys R Us exclusive schoolhouse featuring everything needed for a full curriculum, including an art and music room, computer stations, a science class, complete with skeleton and more. An audible school bell lets students know when class is in session, while an adjustable clock and working chalkboard help make learning fun! This set also includes ten figures and nearly 500 detailed accessories. No batteries required. Ages 4 years and up.
Sing-a-ma-jigs! from Mattel
These irresistible, quirky plush characters will sing their way into the hearts of kids of all ages. With more than six characters to choose from, anyone interested in an offbeat melody can squeeze the bellies on each of these plush creatures to hear its favorite song, including “Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and more. And, when Sing-a-ma-jigs! sing together, it’s always in perfect harmony. 2 “AAA” batteries required (included). Ages 3 years and up.
Squinkies Cupcake Surprise! Bake Shop from blip toys
Kids can take home the excitement of a coin-operated vending machine, filled with their favorite squishy, pencil-topping toys – Squinkies! By removing the cherry from the top of this oversized cupcake playset, children can begin to fill the dispenser with any of the nine included Squinkies individually packaged in a plastic bubble, or by choosing from the hundreds of Squinkies that are sold separately. When a Squinkies coin or standard penny or dime is inserted into the machine and the dial is turned, out will come a Squinkies surprise! The dispenser also doubles as a sweet shop playset when opened up. Inside, Squinkies characters can play the part as bakers, customers or even treats. No batteries required. Ages 3 years and up.
Thomas & Friends Thomas’ Mountain Adventure by MEGA Bloks
Tomica Hypercity Mega Station Set from TOMY
Kids can ride the rails around Hypercity with this fully automated, Toys R Us exclusive train set that mimics the action of a bustling station. Just like in real life, as the train pulls into the terminal, cars yield at the railroad crossing to wait as the train automatically stops, allowing passengers to hop on and off. Once the train resumes its travels, traffic automatically begins to move again. Children can even switch the station into manual mode to control the action on their own. To bring the station to life, kids can outfit their city with the paved roads, trees, parking spaces and lampposts as well as a convenience store, complete with a Tomikid figure to work the counter. 4 “C” batteries required. Ages 4 years and up.
5 to 7 years
Disney-Pixar “Toy Story 3” U-COMMAND Buzz Lightyear from Thinkway
It’s “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue” with this fully programmable action figure. Children take control of Buzz by using an infrared remote control to make him speak, spin around, move forward and back, move his arms and activate his laser. With 10 program buttons that can create over 1,000 action combos and the ability to control Buzz using a joystick controller, kids will think Buzz actually left Andy’s house en route to their own home. This global exclusive can only be found at Toys R Us stores around the world. 7 “AA” Batteries required (4 included). Ages 6 years and up.
Disney Princess & Me dolls from JAKKS Pacific
Disney Princess fans can now share royal adventures with these five beautifully crafted 18-inch dolls, available exclusively at Toys R Us. Young ladies can select the princess with whom they most identify – choosing from Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella or Tiana – before creating a world of tea parties and more princess role play. Expanding on the magic and enchantment of Disney Princesses, these dolls feature sweet faces, silky hair, tiaras and detailed, signature gowns. Girls can even purchase wearable replicas of each ball gown in their size to match their favorite Princess. Each doll also includes an invitation to become a member of the Princess & Me Royal family. Ballet and sleep wear for the dolls, as well as matching child-size ball gowns, are sold separately. No batteries required. Ages 3 to 8 years.
Fan’s Choice City Public Transport from LEGO Systems, Inc.
Helping citizens travel around LEGO City is easy with this 864-piece set, which lets builders construct multiple modes of transportation out of their LEGO pieces, including a sports car, city bus, cable car, bicycle and even a street sweeper to keep the roadways clean. Developed in response to fans’ votes, which ranked this set as the most sought-after addition to LEGO City, this Toys R Us exclusive also comes with enough LEGO bricks to create a bus stop, train platform and a general store to ensure the six included minifigures are occupied while waiting to take their next ride. No batteries required. Ages 6 years and up.
Fast Lane Wild Fire RC from Toys R Us
With tremendous, nine-inch tires that can drive on nearly every terrain, four-wheel drive and an engine that makes rumbling sounds, kids will instantly think they’re at a monster truck rally when they take control of this super-sized radio-controlled vehicle. Measuring at over one-foot-tall and two-feet-long, this gigantic truck towers over other cars and is ready to roll over anything in its path. To bring the excitement to life, the Wild Fire even has light-up flames shooting out of its exhaust pipes. 1 “9.6 V” rechargeable battery and 1 “9 V” battery required (included). Ages 6 years and up.
Leapster Explorer from LeapFrog
Now kids can enjoy endless hours of play and learning with this electronic hand-held device that lets them customize experiences to fit the way they learn and play. In addition to a touch-screen and included stylus, the Explorer system features a library of more than 40 games and activities, downloadable games, e-books, videos and flash cards, which kids can use to enhance skills, such as reading, math, science and geography. Additionally, creativity and life skills, like music, health and problem solving are enhanced while using the system. Children can also go online with LeapWorld, a virtual space where they can find even more games and activities and where they can obtain virtual items, such as treats and shampoo for their onboard pet before uploading them to this on-the-go system. Parents can also check in on their child’s progress with the LeapFrog Learning Path, so they can see how their little learner is playing and exploring, as well as how to help them succeed. 4 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 4 to 9 years.
Loopz from Mattel
Combining movement and music, this memory game really gets kids and families moving as players interact with four semi-circular rings. Lights flash and music plays with increasing speed as players mimic movements to match lights and sounds by waving their hands through the corresponding loops, while motion sensors in each ring read the action to ensure sequences are repeated correctly. The longer players keep up with correct motions, the faster the action, but if players miss the beat three times, they’re out! An internal counter measures each player’s speed and level, while rating their overall performance. Loopz includes seven different games that can be played solo or as a friendly competition for up to 4 players. 4 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 7 years and up.
Monster High Cleo DeNile and Deuce Gorgon doll set from Mattel
The teenage children of legendary monster menaces are now attending high school together at Monster High! With wild personalities, fierce attitudes and totally trendy styles, the dolls featured in this two-pack, Cleo DeNile and Deuce Gorgon, are the most popular couple at Monster High. Cleo is the daughter of the Mummy and a true Egyptian princess with flair, donning a headdress, exotic jewelry and the occasional stray bandage wrapping. Deuce is the son of Medusa, so he must wear his sunglasses to keep from turning his friends to stone. Complete with Deuce Gorgon’s pet rat, Perseus, and his cool shades, as well as Cleo DeNile’s pet snake, Hissette, and her gold purse, this gift set is all about monstrous fashion and fun. No batteries required. Ages 6 years and up.
Magic Orbeez Maker from Maya Group
By filling the Magic Orbeez Maker with water and placing up to 300 Orbeez inside at once, children can watch as these unique orbs, which start off tiny, grow to more than 100 times their original volume! As the Orbeez transform into wet, wacky, soft, squishy and bouncy orbs, kids can float them through hoops and then cascade them down a spiral ramp into a collection tray. From there, playtime is endless as kids can brew up their own concoctions or use the included activity booklet and 2,500 Orbeez to find dozens of fun ideas. No batteries required. Ages 5 years and up.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back AT-AT in vintage packaging from Hasbro
Collectors and kids can transport themselves to 1980 with this all-new, highly detailed version of the classic All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) walker, which was first seen attacking the Rebel base on ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. Standing at over two feet tall, this armored vehicle comes ready for battle, complete with an AT-AT Driver and a Speeder Bike that can launch for sneak attacks. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, the Toys R Us exclusive version features a replica of the original AT-AT packaging, complete with the Kenner logo. To bring the movie fun to life, the AT-AT also features LED lights and authentic movie sounds and phrases. 3 “AA” batteries (not included). Ages 5 years and up.
8 – 11 years
Air Hogs Pocket Copter from Spin Master
Measuring less than 4-inches long, 2.56-inches high and less than one inch wide, the world’s smallest radio-controlled helicopter is packed with power and ready to take flight right from the palm of a hand. Offering stability during flight, this Toys R Us exclusive chopper features two rotors and trim control, while its hard-plastic, crash-resistant body provides durability even after the toughest landings. As an added bonus, the packaging converts into a charger and carrying case, letting micro-pilots prepare for takeoff while protecting their helicopter and controller. 6 “AA” and 3 “AAA” batteries required (not included). Ages 10 years and up.
CSI Junior Investigator Kit from Toys R Us
Kids can take investigations into their own hands with this fully equipped kit that will help them learn how to evaluate and process “crime scenes,” as they dust for fingerprints, collect and store evidence and more. This Toys R Us exclusive set comes with everything junior investigators need to become super sleuths, including a field case, mini microscope, stamp pad, replacement ink, fingerprinting powders, fingerprinting brush, fingerprint lifters, plastic gloves, tweezer, magnifying glass, crime scene tape, goggles, string, an “L” shaped ruler, faux evidence, bags, tags and logs, slides, flashlight, test tubes, stencils, plaster frame, activity book and more! No batteries required. Ages 10 years and up.
Cuponk from Hasbro Games
Walls, tables, chairs, stairs and additional household objects combine with electronic cups and ping-pong like balls in this game that challenges players to master off-the-wall tricks. Kids start by selecting from 30 cards before bouncing a ball into a cup in an effort to perfect shots, such as featuring tricks such as “Blind Hook,” “Karate Krane,” “Stairing Contest” and more to be rewarded with lights and cool sounds. With three types of cups to choose from, including gorilla-themed Gorillanator, zombie-styled Let It R.I.P. or Luchador-decorated El Campeón, kids will soon ricochet from standard tricks to creating their own miraculous maneuvers. 3 “AAA” batteries required (not included). Ages 9 years and up.
Ground Force Drifter from Razor
Riders can power slide through corners, throw fish tails or complete fast 360-degree spins to become the neighborhood drift king with this reinvention of the classic go kart! The Ground Force Drifter boasts speeds up to 12 mph and features a sturdy steel frame, molded aluminum front wheels with solid rubber tires, Super Slider POM rear wheels, high torque motor, hand-operated rear brake and a bucket seat with shoulder strap. Speedsters can ride for up to 40 minutes of continuous fun with each charge of this electric vehicle with classic go kart styling. Rechargeable “24 Volt” battery required (included). Ages 8 years and up. Maximum weight 140 pounds.
Minotaurus from LEGO Systems, Inc.
Players are challenged to navigate the labyrinth in an effort to be the first to reach a hidden temple in this board game constructed entirely out of LEGO bricks. But, they must beware as a mighty Minotaur is waiting to block their path! To make navigating the tricky maze even more challenging, players can drop walls to prevent others from following them. Featuring 211 LEGO bricks and 12 microfigures, two to four players can lose themselves in this amazing adventure. No batteries required. Ages 7 years and up.
NERF N-Strike Stampede ECS from Hasbro
Kids can power up their NERF battles with this fully automatic blaster that launches a continuous stream of darts up to 25-feet. Featuring three interchangeable 18-dart clips, the highest capacity NERF dart clip ever created, along with an additional clip that holds six darts, kids can quickly reload. The Stampede ECS-50 also comes with a detachable blast shield to help block return fire, while a pop-out stand lets kids steady the blaster as they prepare for their next assault. 6 “D” batteries required (not include). Ages 8 years and up.
Kinect for Xbox 360 from Microsoft
Kinect for Xbox 360 brings games to life in extraordinary new ways with no controller required. Players simply step in front of the sensor and Kinect recognizes and responds to their gestures. Full-body tracking allows the Kinect sensor to capture movement from head-to-toe, immersing them in the experience. If players see a ball on the screen, they can kick it – just like in real life. Batteries not required. Ages 6 years and up. This item will be available beginning November 4.
PlayStation Move Bundle with Sports Champions from Sony PlayStation
Now gamers can use their physical actions to interact with PlayStation 3 video games when they use the new PlayStation Move motion control gaming system that combines a controller and motion tracking camera to replicate even the slightest real life move on-screen. Packaged with Sports Champions, players can immerse themselves in Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel, Beach Volleyball, Archery, Table Tennis and Bocce, while their movements and speed offer ultimate control over how they play the game. No batteries required. Rated “E 10+” for 10 years and up.
SCRABBLE FLASH from Hasbro Games
One minute and quick-thinking are all that’s needed to play this addictive, fast-paced version of SCRABBLE. Slide, swap and shuffle five electronic freestanding tiles to create three, four or five-letter words – all without a game board! As the tiles form new words, they light up and beep using SmartLink technology while tracking time left in the game and players’ scores. Two additional games can be played, including “Five Letter Flash,” which challenges players to unscramble a five letter word, and “Pass Flash,” where players take turns forming five letter words. 5 “CR2032 Lithium” batteries required (included). Ages 8 years and up.