Hot holiday toys for 2012
Numerous national retailers have reported the most popular toys this holiday season and there aren't any real surprises on the lists. Many of the top toys this year are remastered versions of tried-and-true favorites from past years.
"I find it both funny and frustrating that the same toys keep coming back all the time," says Maggie Reed, Milwaukee mother of two.
In some cases, shopping at smaller, local stores provides more unique choices. But first, here is what's chart-topping on the national level this year.
Furby is back this year and the robotic owl (or is he a hamster?) has evolved since its first release as the must-have toy in 1999. He / she / it still speaks "Furbish" when first purchased and "learns" to speak English through interaction. Now, Furby comes with a free app to help translate Furbish and to virtually feed it. Furby works with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and costs about $60.
The Leapfrog LeapPad 2 is the big Leapfrog product this year. This "learning table" costs around $100 and features front and back cameras, video recorders, 4GB of memory and supposedly an improved processor. There are more than 300 game cartridges and downloadable apps available.
Bored with the Monopoly board game? Parker Bros. upgraded the classic with Monopoly Millionaires, featuring a high-end board and "rich guy" lifestyle cards. The winner is the first to earn a million, but this game only costs around $30. Wonder if it still includes the old shoe piece?
The Nerf-N-Strike Elite Hail-Fire Blaster is another big seller this season. It features a rotating ammo rack, can hold up to 144 darts and targets 75 feet away. Fight the power for $40.
The Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Star Melody B. Sharp is an interactive doll that sings, dances and allows children to decorate her hair with hats and accessories. She's made of plastic and costs $60.
Also on the doll scene, Baby Alive is back again and she wants to learn how to walk. She is available as white (blond or brunette) and African American and responds to voice and touch. Adopt her for around $55. Glad they ditched the version that ate baby food. She was cute until she got internally moldy and, consequently, really stinky.
For those shoppers and secret Santas who prefer to buy from locally-owned stores, Andie Zacher has quite a few hot items in her shop, Little Monsters, 2445 N. Farwell Ave.
Wooden toys have been popular for a while now, and Little Monsters features a nice selection of Janod wooden toys from France. Sets include a circus, Wild West, farm, city or firehouse for $26. A gorgeous full train set is $82.
"They're very fresh and the graphics are outstanding," says Zacher. "Janod goes to the heart of what kids really like."
Also popular this season is the re-release of retro Fisher Price toys like the record player ($40), phone ($27) and camera ($20). Zacher says she started stocking these about six months ago and they have been big sellers ever since.
For older kids, Little Monsters offers a unique French art kit called Djeco Draw Tags that teaches kids how to create graffiti-style artwork. The cost is $33. There's also a Djeco kit that teaches kids how to design fabric patterns.
Little Monsters also has a plethora of fun and interesting stocking stuffers, no-mess gingerbread house kits and old school favorites like paint-by-number kits and cardboard play figures.
Other local shops that sell unique kids' toys:
Art Smart's Dart Mart
1695 N. Humboldt Ave., (414) 273-3278
Art Smart's features darts / dartboards, juggling supplies, kites, golf discs, air toys, boomerangs, yo-yos, gag gifts, books, music and much, much more.
Beans & Barley
1901 E. North Ave., (414) 278-7878
A small but solid selection of toys, novelty items, books and art supplies. Highlights include a "grow your own" magic bonsai tree kit, nature print, sun-sensitive paper, rubber snakes and monster finger puppets. Stock rotates often.
2445 N. Holton St., (414) 263-1991
Lots of wooden toys, art supplies, art kits, books, retro candy, puzzles, handmade clothing, Japanese erasers and much more. Great for gifts for grown-ups, too.
629 E. Silver Spring Dr., (414) 964-2130
The toy department, which takes up most of the large lower level, features a great selection of Playmobil, K'NEX and Brio wooden toys along with many other unique and favorite items. Upstairs, a large candy counter sells goodies galore.
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