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Guide to Children's Products for Fun & Learning

 

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See our Reviews & News Blog for some of the latest top toys for Christmas and All Year Round.


Just Released - Amazon.com's Holiday Toy List

 

Some of the hottest current toys made it to our Gift Guide lists: Elmo Live, Nintendo DS, V Smile Pocket, and Robosapien, to name a few. 

Note that whether or not a toy is a hot-seller is not a consideration when we handpick products for our Gift Guides. Here we present some of the hottest toys currently available, organized into those that we chose for our gift guides, and those toys that didn't make it to our list (and why!):

Hot New Toys

 

Elmo Live - Available November 1, 2008, Pre-Order Now.

Elmo Live is a plush toy of Elmo, who, from his sitting position, crosses his legs, bobbles his head from side to side, tells jokes as his mouth flaps right on cue, sings songs, and even plays games. Kids activate this extraordinarily true-to-life plushie by squeezing his hands, nose, or feet.

Elmo Live is, of course, expected to be at least as popular as its predecessors (such as Elmo TMX and Tickle Me Elmo). This one is the most advanced interactive Elmo we have seen yet.

Here's Elmo Live in action:

Elmo Live can be pre-ordered now (and will be released on November 1, 2008). Many families are getting a jump on this in case there is a shortage later:

Preorder at Amazon: Fisher-Price Elmo Live

 

Wal-Mart: Sneak Peek at the Newest Must-Have Toys

 

The plush, interactive Furby made toy history when it initially launched during the 1998 holiday season, sparking phenomenal demand and a legendary buying frenzy. An all-new evolved Furby is more technologically advanced, allowing for enhanced interaction through voice recognition. In addition, the toy is larger than before, and has a fully flexible beak, expressive eyes, and movable ears and eyebrows that allow the toy to communicate through expressions. And, as a nod to Mom requests, the new Furby now has an off switch so the chatterbox toy won't break into song or story-telling mode during the middle of the night!

The all-new Furby is driven by Hasbro's new Emoto-Tronics, a combination of advanced robotic technology, puppetry and realistic lifelike reactions and movements. Advanced voice recognition allows Furby to react based on how a child interacts with it, adding a new level of technological sophistication. Now, the FURBY creature can "listen" and respond based on his "mood." With the toy, kids learn how to speak 'Furbish', Furby's native language. Furby is currently hitting store shelves in the U.S. with four different fur combinations, including grey and pink, all-white, black and white, and cream and brown, with additional fur combinations due out later this year. Furby will also come with a variety of eye colors, including various shades of brown, blue and green. For more information, user reviews, or to buy Furby: Furby Toys

 

What is it??

Many kids, and perhaps more parents, will wonder what the new Shell Shocker toy is exactly. It's Tyco R/C's new Shell Shocker, a radio-controlled transforming creature that starts off a ball wrapped in protective rhino-like skin. That's shield mode. But the creature can turn its shell inside out while in motions so as to gain traction. It reveals its scorpion-like tail when it's poised to "attack". Designed to tackle many different types of terrain, the Shell Shocker can be controlled from a range of up to 70 feet. For kids ages 8 and up.

 
Leapster L-MAX

The New Leapster L-MaxThe new Leapster L-Max is much like the ground-breaking Leapster handheld educational learning system released last year, except that it offers kids the opportunity to play Leapster games two different ways--as a portable handheld or the handheld can be hooked up to the television. This added feature is fantastic.

The Leapster L-Max runs the original Leapster games on the handheld, although some of them don't work through the television. The new Leapster L-Max games, of course, can be played both ways--on the handheld itself and through the TV--and many of the Leapster original cartridges can too.

Like the original Leapster, the Leapster L-Max learning game system uses a stylus to help children better master early handwriting skills. It is the only video game system that also uses a touch screen to support different modes of game play.

The Leapster L-MAX system features the richest educational content available in a learning game system. Rather than designing games that assume children understand certain reading or math concepts, Leapster L-MAX learning game system supports children in their individual learning process. By providing in-depth tutorials and a supporting hint structure to guide the learning, players may seek step-by-step assistance through reading, math or spelling concepts. This type of guided practice not only helps them learn as they play, but inspires confidence in mastering important skills from preschool to fourth grade. A software library designed to work specifically with the Leapster L-MAX learning game system is immediately available for multiple skill levels, and additional titles that go up to fourth grade will follow. Compatible Leapster learning game system titles are sold separately and retail for $24.99.

Read our full review of the Leapster L-Max here.

For more information, user reviews, and to buy: Leapster L-Max

 

Hot Toys That Made it to EdutainingKids.com's Recommended Gift Guides:

 

 


Robosapien

One of the season's hottest toys, Robosapien is a battery-powered "humanoid" that can dance, pick up objects, walk, whistle, yawn, push, kick, and even give a "high five" in ways that mimic human behaviors. Sensors in the robot's feet allow him to walk around objects. Robosapien was developed by former NASA robotic physicist, Dr. Mark W. Tilden, and is far more graceful than other toy robots. Kids operate the 14-inch tall robot with a remote control. The humanoid includes 67 pre-programmed functions and can be programmed to perform functions in a chain. Don't think that this toy is only for boys—girls (and parents, too!) will have a blast with this highly entertaining robot as much as boys.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Robosapien Robot at Amazon.com]

 

 

My Scene Swapping Styles

They don't cost much more than the regular My Scene dolls, yet My Scene Swapping Styles feature considerably more play value. Each set comes with 3 interchangeable head-and-shoulder units, each featuring the same doll (Barbie, Nolee, Madison) but with different hairstyles. These sets will please parents as well as kids--most kids who love My Scene dolls want to buy more than one of each character, simply because of a hairstyle. This eliminates that problem. Fashion accessories are also included.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: All My Scene Swapping Styles Doll Sets at Amazon.com (Toys R Us)]


 

 

Cabbage Patch Dolls & Cabbage Patch Kids Babies

A blast from the past! The original Cabbage Patch doll frenzy occurred in the early 1980's. Many parents of today's children took part in the thrill of the dolls: each doll is entirely unique and comes with adoption papers that include a name and a birthdate. Kids loved them then, and they love them today. Many parents will be happy to know that today's Cabbage Patch dolls have not been "updated" with technology or anything of the sort. 

Cabbage Patch dolls were re-released last year. This season, they introduced Cabbage Patch Kids Babies, such as the one at right. These adorable dolls come with a kit of baby accessories (including a diaper), and they smell like baby powder!

Note that you can order these dolls through Toys R Us (see link directly below this description) by choosing a general description of the doll, such as "Blonde Hair Girl, Pink Sweatsuit", but because each doll is one-of-a-kind, the eyes, hair styles, and faces will be different than those shown. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: All Cabbage Patch Dolls at Amazon.com (Toys R Us)]

 

 

 

Nintendo DS

One of the hottest new items is the Nintendo DS, a portable gaming system that is the next step in the GameBoy line. This exciting new unit features dual screens and is happily backward-compatible with GameBoy Advance games. There are two cartridge slots on the unit: one slot for the GameBoy Advance cartridges, and another for the smaller DS game cartridges. The new wireless connectivity feature is impressive. We have seen the wireless feature in games like Pokemon Leaf Green and Fire Red, and the DS has a built-in feature that supports this exciting technology. Effectively with the technology built into the Nintendo DS, players will be able to play games with touch (touch screen) and voice (microphone), monitor two-screen action, and compete wirelessly with others. Of course, DS games will take advantage of the unit's technology. Kid-friendly DS titles that have already been announced include such titles as Animal Crossing, Pokemon Dash, Frogger, and Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 DS was released the same day as the unit.

Launch date was November 21st, and the Nintendo DS holds a suggested retail price of $149.99 US. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Nintendo DS at Amazon.com]

 

 

 

The New Leapster L-MaxLeapster L-Max

Last year's Leapster has already been updated. The Leapster L-Max is a handheld portable unit that mimics Nintendo's GameBoy, but with important differences that make it not only more kid-friendly, but exceptionally more educational as well. The comparatively large screen is also a touch screen, and kids interact with the games by using a directional pad and an attached stylus. Game cartridges, available separately, offer children "edutaining" games that support learning. What's the main difference between the Leapster and the Leapster L-Max? Besides a slightly less bulky unit, the L-Max can be played as a portable or can be plugged into the TV and played on both the little and "big" screens. The unit is backwards compatible -- the original Leapster game cartridges can be played on the new unit. Most of the original games play on both the portable and TV screens, while some only play on the handheld. Read our full review of the L-Max here.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Leapster L-Max]

coverLeapster

The original Leapster is still available, and, since the release of the L-Max, can usually be found at a reduced price. See our full review of this product.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy Leapster at Amazon.com]

 

 


Fisher Price Read With Me DVD System 

This exciting electronic unit by Fisher Price offers kids the chance to watch specially designed DVDs, featuring popular characters and classic stories, and interact along with them in educational ways. Designed in conjunction with Scholastic, the system includes the hardware itself and a bonus DVD, along with activity cards, a DVD case, and a kid-friendly remote control. This DVD-based learning system requires that you own a DVD player. Additional DVD software titles must be purchased separately. These include classic storybooks such as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Dr. Seuss, and more. Children place the activity card over the wireless Read with Me controller and answer educational questions. Over 100 questions are programmed into each DVD, so children are kept stimulated and enjoy different experiences each time they watch.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Fisher Price Learning: Read with Me DVD System with "The Little Engine That Could" Rom or Fisher Price Learning: Read with Me DVD System with "Where The Wild Things Are" Rom at Amazon.com]

 

 

VideoNow Color Personal Video Player

This fun system allows kids to watch Video Now videos (on PVD) on the go. It comes in a variety of colors (only orange is pictured), and VideoNow video discs are sold separately for approximately $6-$9 a piece. The system works well and is handy for car trips, for example, both short and long. ( A VIDEONOW Color Car Adaptor is also available for the latter.) BUT, if you have a Nintendo GameBoy Advance or DS, buy videos for that unit. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: VIDEONOW Color Personal Video Player: Sapphire at Amazon.com]

 

 


V Smile

The concept is excellent: the V.Smile is an electronic learning system designed for children too young for traditional video games. The colorful unit plugs into the TV and accepts software in the form of cartridges (called Smartridges). Children use the unit's large, kid-friendly joystick to interact with the software. Parents of young children, especially those with older siblings, know that their preschoolers are itching to play video games like the "big kids". The V Smile offers games that truly play like video games, but feature a distinct educational component at the same time. The unit comes with one software title, a Smartridge called Alphabet Park Adventure. Additional Smartridges, many of which feature popular licensed characters such as Winnie the Pooh and Scooby Doo, are sold separately. This makes an exciting gift.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: V-Smile at Amazon.com]

 

 


 

 


More Hot Toys:

 

 

Elmo Shout, E-L-M-O Dancing Plush, and Potty Elmo

A new novelty Elmo plush doll seems to be released each year. This time around, it's Elmo Shout. We didn't include this one in our gift guides for a couple reasons: although it grabs kids' attention for a few days, its novelty appeal dies out rapidly for most; and, it's not very "huggable". We actually prefer last year's model because the Shout model seems to topple over more frequently. Despite its "hot" status, we'd skip this one.

It's definitely a novelty item, but the E-L-M-O Dancing Plush is sure to appeal at least for awhile. Battery-operated Elmo sings and dances the old hit, YMCA, to the delight of little ones.

If your child loves Elmo, and you'd prefer something a little more practical and instructional, consider Sesame Street Potty Elmo. Elmo pretends to drink water, and then requests to be placed on the potty. Toilet flushing and sipping sounds are featured, and no "real" water is involved. Essentially, this toy turns Elmo into a role model, and is meant to encourage children to learn to go potty.  

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Sesame Street: Shout ElmoE-L-M-O Dancing Plush or Sesame Street Potty Elmo ]

 

 


Fur Real Friends

These interactive friends are fun and popular. Children will certainly enjoy them for a time. Why didn't this toy make it to our top 10 gifts? Because we found them less impressive than kids expected them to be. Note that there are less expensive kittens and puppies in the Fur Real line that may be most worthwhile. The toys are quite sound, but there was some level of disappointment in our testing which prevented us from including the line of toys in our top recommendations.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Fur Real Friends Luv Cubs - Polar Bear or see all All Fur Real Toys at Toys R Us]

 

Aqua Doodle

The concept is really fun. This large mat allows kids to doodle without mess. The drawings disappear after a minute or so, and the mat is ready for new doodles. The reason why this fun toy didn't make it to our gift guide lists is due to the fact that the mat comes with only one specially designed pen holder. We would have liked the mat to be equipped with more supplies so that kids (more than one!) could enjoy their product fully right from the box. A stamp set, which includes extra pen holders is available separately, but in our opinion, should have been included with the original product.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Aquadoodle at Amazon.com]

 

Nintendo's GameCube

We recommend this console system to all families with young children who are looking for an entertaining, affordable, and durable video game system. Note: We recommend this product in our Family Gift Guide. It's not in our top ten only to make room for other, newer products. However, our recommendation is whole-hearted. This system doesn't boast as many games as the other systems, but the ones that do exist for the GameCube are mostly E-rated games, and kids truly love them. This console is hardy, durable, and very satisfying for kids in the under-13 age range.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: NGC Super Smash Bros. Melee Bundle (best buy, because it comes with the console, a game, and a controller) or Nintendo Gamecube Console - Limited Edition Platinum at Amazon.com]

 

 

Tamagotchi Connection

Tamagotchi virtual pets are back with all-new features. This new breed of Tamagotchi pets features infrared technology that allows them to communicate with up to 50 other Tamagotchi. There is a Lights Off feature that should help minimize the stress that the old Tamagotchi caused some children. Kids still need to feed, clean up after, play with, and discipline their virtual pets in order to keep them alive and well. Why didn't we recommend this toy in our gift guides? Our gift guides feature our most recommended toys. Tamagotchi Connection didn't make it simply because we still find the toy stresses children out, especially younger kids. Of course, every child is different and responds to this type of toy in unique ways. However, we found that the care required to keep Tamagotchi thriving is a little too challenging, and many kids, especially sensitive ones, don't need that kind of stress to keep a pet "alive".

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Tamagotchi Connection:Pink with Orange Stars or see all Tamagotchi Connection Toys at Amazon.com]

 

 

Namco II Ms. Pacman with 5 TV Games

We love the concept of this toy. The idea is that kids and families can enjoy some of the 80's classic arcade games, with Ms. Pacman as the standout game, on their TV without the need for a video game system. We liked the fact that it is rather affordable as well. However, this toy didn't make it to our top recommendations because the joystick is not as responsive as we would have liked, and there was some level of disappointment for parents who were hoping for a version that was more true to the original. This is not a bad buy, but because of these issues, we did not include the toy in our gift guides.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Namco II: Ms Pac-Man with 5 TV Games at Amazon.com]


 

See KBToys Hottest Toys lists:

Top Nationally Advertised Toys
Top Specialty Toys
Top Educational Toys

 

Amazon.com announced its 3 top-selling toys from November 1-23, 2004:

  V-Smile

Cranium Hullabaloo Game

Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set

  1. V-Smile

  2. Cranium Hullabaloo Game

  3. Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set

 

Need more gift ideas? See the current top sellers at Amazon for today (updated daily):

Top Sellers in Toys

 

See Also:

 

 

Buying Toys Online is easier than facing the crowded stores! Here is our list of premium online stores for toy shopping, where you'll find good prices, large selection, and reliable service:

 

Toy Clearances/Specials:

Toys R Us Green Tag Clearance: Up to 70% Off
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need more gift ideas? See the current top sellers at Amazon today (updated daily):

Top Sellers in Toys

 

 

See also our articles:

Boohbah

Caillou

Dr. Seuss

SpongeBob Squarepants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buying Toys Online is easier than facing the crowded stores! Here are our top choices of premium online stores for toy shopping:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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