Categories: Feature Story Date: Oct 28, 2011 Title: Holiday Gift Guide
35 Gifts you and your kids will love
The year's best toys,
games, DVDs and
story CDs for all ages
Infants – Age 2
Crib companion, on-the-go amigo and teacher of tots—this hand-held electronic learning toy can entertain and soothe babies. Plus, the 20 educational cartoons, 288 learning games and other neat activities will prepare them for school-time success as they grow. The Ohio Art Company, $199.99; www. ohioart.com; infants and up.
Kidoozie Stack N Roll Tumbling Tower
Don’t construct just to destruct! Reinvented stacking cups extend traditional play to include problem solving, muscle strengthening and the beginnings of reading readiness. Funnel top, balls and a hole in each cup keep kids’ interest long after their tower is built. International Playthings LLC, $24.99; www.intplay.com; age 1 and up.
Ages 3 and 4
Hexbug Nano Hive Habitat Set
The preschool set can create roadblock diversions with spinners, ramps and tab dividers for the erratically quirky, hyper Hexbug to scamper around. When play is done, the set can be left completely intact, folding up securely
for next time. Innovation First Labs, LLC, $34.99; www.hexbug.com; age 3 and up.
Kid-Tough See Yourself Camera
If only we had as much memory as this handy, kidfriendly camera! An internal memory of 256 megabytes lets kids snap 1,300 pictures or five minutes of video. Kids can easily take pictures of themselves or friends using the ingenious rotating lens. Special effects can embellish pictures before or after snapping.
Fisher-Price, $69.99; www.fisher-price.com; age 3 and up.
Continuing with the success of the original Perplexus, this is a slightly scaled-down version, both in size and difficulty. Wider tracks and taller walls help the small metal marble stay on the twisting maze embedded within the clear ball. PlaSmart, Inc., $22.49; www.plasmarttoys.com; age 4 and up.
This ultrasoft bedtime companion whispers reassuring messages from Mom and Dad, which can help keep troublesome nighttime frights at bay. Dual-track voice-over allows 10 seconds of recording and can be quietly played back along with pre-recorded soothing sounds. Cloud B, $34.95; www.cloudb.com; age 3 and up.
Age 5 and Up
Brilliant Creations Advanced Notebook
This laptop has the look and feel of real! The 4.5-inch color LCD screen comes equipped with 120 activities to engage young learners with the fundamental skills of math, reading readiness, Spanish, music and more. VTech; $49.99; www.vtechkids.com; age 5 and up.
Meon Deluxe Animation Studio
Sure to be a holiday hit! Your children can thread the light-up tubing through specifically placed pegs. Then turn the frame on to see their design glow in neon splendor. Extend play with games like Memory, Fortune Teller and Sound Visualizer, which flashes to the beat of kids’ own music.
Skyrocket Toys, $29.99; www.meonglow.com; age 5 and up.
Age 8 and Up
Little Green Money Machine
The playful pastime of a lemonade stand gives children much more than a cup of juice! This ultimate business stand assembles easily with no tools, while the accompanying book gives young entrepreneurs the tools needed to learn how to run a successful business. Family Pick & Judge's Pick
DelVisionaries, $199; www. littlegreenmoneymachine.com; age 9 and up.
This mini remotecontrolled car delivers pocket-size power! Speeding up to 14 mph, it can hurl off stairs, across road ramps and still land unscathed. The dual-sided car knows what side is up, so driving directions remain consistent and uninterrupted. Pistol-grip remote rumbles to feel the impact of crashes. Silverlit, $49.99; www.silverlit.com; age 8 and up.
For Kids At Heart
Cécile and Marie-Grace Best Friends Collection
Beautifully crafted dolls teach about the experiences of two friends during the troubling time of the 1853 New Orleans Yellow Fever epidemic. American Girl, $234; www.americangirl.com; age 8 and up.
Once you have mastered traditional brick building, test your skill and empower your patience by constructing minute, amazingly detailed objects with these tiny, interlocking blocks. Tweezers will be your tool of
choice. Quitters need not apply! The Ohio Art Company, $7.99-$14.99; www.ohioart.com; age 8 and up.
Quirky creatures with goofy bios await your inner ghoul. Crack open the book to unleash mystical, magical monsters. Fifty perforated, paperfolded fiends pop out to an ageless audience eagerly waiting to assemble their own ogres. Workman Publishing, $16.95; www.workman.com; age 9 and up.
Mastered the original Perplexus? Need a new challenge? With four starting points and 125 barriers to finesse through, Perplexus Epic delivers! PlaSmart, Inc., $29.99; www.plasmarttoys.com; age 8 and up.
Age 3 and Up
Richard Scarry’s Busytown Busy Busy Airport Game
The box bottom transforms into an airport with a dice-rolling control tower. Charming, detailed illustrations make for wonderful imaginative play. Kids can fly their planes to faraway destinations (around the room), collecting souvenirs along the way. Wonder Forge, $19.99; www.thewonderforge.com; age 3 and up.
Age 5 and Up
Arrange and rearrange your striped “stix,” lining them up to make “blocks” of colors. A race against time and each other, the clicks of the wooden sticks and the vibrant colors make for a visually beautiful play experience.
MindWare, $19.95; www.mindware.com; age 5 and up.
A puzzle, a game and a toy all in one, Trucky 3 is as simple or as challenging as you want to make it. Pack the clear payloads of three high-quality wooden trucks with funky-shaped blocks. There’s only one solution to each well-illustrated challenge. Smart/Tangoes U.S.A, $24.99; www.SmartGames.eu; age 3 and up.
Age 7 and Up
Highlights Buzz Blast
Hot Potato meets kid-friendly brainteasers! Solve the problem at hand in your own unique way, then pass the “Buzz Blaster” timer so that the next player can solve the same problem his way. Loaded with content, it’s a different game each time. Highlights for Children, $24.99; www.discoverybaygames.com; age 7 and up.
For The Whole Family
Joe Name It
Big fun comes in this tiny game where a simple die roll indicates a quantity in every question. Play against each other and against the imaginary “Joe.” “Any Joe” means all-play; “Just Joe” means you go it alone. Either way, every Joe has a good time. Gamewright, $9.99; www.gamewright.com; age 12 and up.
Instead of you acting out a word or phrase and having your team try to guess, this game has your whole team acting while just you get to guess. Chaos and hilarity are guaranteed in this fresh twist on an all-time classic.
RETROPlay, $23.99; www.ReverseCharades.com; all ages.
Infants and Up
Baby Einstein: Neptune’s Ocean Discovery Kit
Compelling nature photography and various musical arrangements provide visual and audio stimulation for babies and progressive learning opportunities for toddlers. Amusing puppets introduce segments of lushly filmed marine scenes. The “Discovery Cards” and music CD make this a great buy. The Baby Einstein Company, 2011; 28 min.; $19.99; www.babyeinstein.com; ages 0 to 3.
Toddler Favorites: The Movie
Kids have a blast singing classic children’s songs under the kind tutelage of Teapot as he coaches Teeny Teacup through the words. A creative mix of fabulous colors, graphics and animation transform live-action singing sessions into dazzling musical adventures. Independent Production—Music for Little People, 2011; 35 min.; $9.99;
www.mflpdistribution.com; ages 1 to 5.
Age 2 and Up
The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That!
Adapted from the Dr. Seuss book series, the Cat leads Sally and Nick on three winter adventures about the arctic, penguins and reindeer. Parents will love the mischief-making Cat in his new role as scientist, setting kids on track for knowledge and discovery. NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 45 min.; $19.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com; ages 2 to 5.
Chuggington: Let’s Ride the Rails
No wonder preschoolers relate to the colorful, personable Chuggington engines. Exuding presence and personality, the Chug “trainees” are like young children, little people in training with parents—or older, wiser Chuggers—providing guidance and encouragement. Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2011; 62 min.; $16.98; Anchorbayentertainment.com; ages 2 to 5.
Debbie and Friends Story Songs and Sing Along
Originally conceived and exceptionally creative, these inspiring music videos develop pro-social and cognitive skills while encouraging kids to be involved and have fun! Debbie and Friends know how to introduce classic stories with their own brand of interpretation. Independent Production—Debbie and Friends, 2011; 50 min.; $14.98;
www.Debbieandfriends.net; ages 2 to 5.
Dance, Pocoyo, Dance!
Minimalist graphics—characters in solid bright colors dance with gusto against a white backdrop – and simple story lines are perfect for the youngest viewers. Kids will learn a bit about dance, music and, best of all, the value of cooperation. NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 20 min.; $12.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com; ages 2 to 5.
Melody Street Show Online Webisodes
Who better to introduce children to the world of music than 8-year-old musical prodigy Ethan Bortnick? This interactive multiplatform package offers several music adventures in different formats, with eye-popping graphics and instrument characters. Kids look, listen and learn. Independent Production – Melody Street LLC,
2010; 3-5 min. per webisode, free; www.melodystreet.com; ages 4 to 7.
Sid the Science Kid: Going, Going, Green!
Sid likes to think and his enthusiasm gets his young animated pals, live-action friends and your preschooler to like thinking, too. Through colorful, true-to-life animated characters, viewers learn the fundamentals of good environmental practices and the need for them. NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 115 min.; $12.99;
wwwncircleentertainment.com; ages 2 to 5.
Spanish for Kids: Las Estaciones
Youngsters love learning new words and sounds, and with animated Fritzi the Mouse guiding them through lively visual cues, they can begin to learn Spanish through the proven immersion method. Live-action kid scenes filmed in each season keep interest high. Independent Production— Whistlefritz, LLC, 2011; 30 min.; $19.99; www.whistlefritz.com; ages 4 to 7.
WordWorld: The Train Escapade
There is no better place to learn to read than Word World, where characters are formed around words and personified letters puzzle together to make a word that solves a problem. Snappy songs and rich colors hold kids’ attention like glue. NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 60 min.; $12.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com; ages 2 to 5.
Age 5 and Up
Families of the Philippines
Life in the Philippines is very different from ours—from bamboo homes and tricycle taxis, to cooking on wood fires and sleeping on the floor. Exceptionally bright, clear frames take viewers there, and narration adds plenty of factual content. Independent Production—Master Communications, 2011; 30 min.; $29.95; www.master-comm.com; ages 5 to 8.
Young Artists Collection Featuring Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin
The Storybook Treasures series bridges video allure and the joy of reading. This installment exposes young artists, musicians and performers to multiple artistic media, instruments and performance. Optional read-along feature encourages reading skills. New Video, 2011; 2 hrs., 47 min.; $24.95; http://www.newkideo.com; ages 5 to 8.
Slap Back Jack
Sometimes whimsical fun wins the day! This amusing claymation short is about a baseball player who hits the ball out of the park. He suffers humiliation because his high-fives don’t connect with other players. Slap Back Jack gets him on track with his high-fivin’ contraption. Independent Production—MRN Media, Inc., 2010; 12 min.; $5;
www.slapbackjack.com; ages 5 to 8.
Storytelling and Spoken Word
Age 4 and Up
Once Upon a Bethlehem Night: Christmas Stories
told by Renee Englot
Take a new look at the Christmas story. The small shepherd, camel, flower, spider, star, the innkeeper’s daughter and others tell what happened that Bethlehem night. Englot’s voice is perfect and the music enhances the mood.
This is a treasure for those who celebrate Christmas. Renee Englot, 2011; $15; www.reneeenglot.com.
Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs
Rapunzel and the seven dwarfs are explained” by storyteller Willy Claflin in an over-the-top “hilarified” Mother Moose mash-up makeover. The beautifully illustrated accompanying book includes “hoof-notes” to refer to the specialized moose vocabulary. Go ahead and try to listen without laughing. August House, 2011; $18.95; www.augusthouse.com.
Toys – Ellen Metrick consults with major toy manufacturers on product designs. She has created systems to research and evaluate toys’ impact on childhood development and their therapeutic value for children with special needs. The lead evaluator for the Toys ‘R’ Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids for 15 years, Metrick serves as manager of business development at the National Lekotek Center, a nationwide nonprofit that focuses on accessible play for children of all abilities.
Games – Peggy Brown works for many of the world’s biggest toy companies as an inventor, designer, writer, creative director and consultant. She won the TAGI award for game design, a prestigious honor in the toy industry. Kim Vandenbroucke is a game inventor, developer, and president of Brainy Chick, Inc. She writes for Games for Educators (G4ed.com) and runs the game-review website, TheGameAisle.com.
DVDs – Ranny Levy is founder and president of the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media. KIDS FIRST! reviews and evaluates children’s programming, trains kids to be critical media users and produces the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival.
Storytelling and Spoken–Word – Marilyn McPhie is a professional storyteller and state liaison for the National Storytelling Network who presents at many national and regional conferences.