By Jennifer Bowen - email
(RNN) - There was the Cabbage Patch Doll, the Furby, the Tickle Me Elmo and the Zhu Zhu pet. Every year brings a new toy that moms scour the aisles for to ensure bright smiles and happy kids on Christmas.
While it might be too early to tell which will be the defining toy of 2010, there are several hot items on kids' wish lists this season, ranging from cute and cuddly to sleek and high tech.
Sing-a-ma-jigs are the latest cute and plushy collectible. They're stuffed animal-like dolls that chatter their own language and sing a variety of common children's songs. Each Sing-a-ma-jig vocalizes its own scale and pitch. Put several together and they harmonize in a chorus of auto-tuned perfection.
"We believe they are selling well because they deliver on one of the top trending categories this year - affordable mini-collectibles," said Ravi Jariwala, a spokesperson for Walmart.
In a tight economy for many families, the brightly colored plushes are affordable, selling for between $9 and $13 each. Sing-a-ma-jigs are recommended for ages 3 and up.
Whether they're scouting out bad guys on the playground or simply playing a friendly game of tag, the Nerf N-Strike Stampeded ECS gives kids a firestorm of soft dart-blasting power at the pull of a trigger.
And it's high on 10-year-old Charlie Thompson's wish list.
"Whenever I go to my friend's house, I like to have a Nerf battle," he said. "I have a little Nerf gun, but this one will be my second. This one's a lot bigger."
"A lot bigger" is no understatement. Touted as one of the hottest guns Nerf has ever produced, the Stampede ECS fires off an 18-dart clip in rapid-fire succession. The gun comes with three extended clips, a quick-load clip and 60 darts for fire-blasting fun.
The gun is recommended for ages 8 and up but don't be surprised if dads start playing with it, too.
This hand-held gaming device turns learning into an interactive experience. Through games and videos, kids learn reading, math and science, according to toy maker Leap Frog.
"Leapster Explorer is a fun, educational product for kids," said Bob Friedland, senior public relations manager with Toys 'R' Us. "It can upload information to the Leapster website, and it provides background info on what your kids are spending their time on, what they're learning and it can track your child's progress."
The Leapster Explorer is recommended for ages 4 to 9 and retails for $69.99.
Paper Jamz has turned the air guitar into a cardboard reality for wannabe rockers.
If your pre-teen has a desire to jam without the hours of practice required to learn an instrument, the Paper Jamz guitar comes pre-loaded with three songs they can strum along to right out of the box.
It also has a freestyle mode, allowing kids to strum chords at random or even write their own songs. Throw in the Paper Jamz drum set and kids can start their own cardboard band.
Paper Jamz guitars and drums are recommended for ages 8 and up.
Of course, for kids, sometimes the best gifts come in big packages.
"I like to go play outside with my friends and take walks and ride my scooter," said fourth-grader Grace Fernandez.
She's put the Trikke Scooter on her wish list this Christmas.
"It's just like a regular scooter, except when you stand on it, your feet have two separate [footholds]," she explained. "It looks like a wishbone. When you try to move it, you move your waist."
The 9-year-old dreams of carving up the sidewalks in her neighborhood with the back-and-forth swaying action of the popular three-wheeled scooter. And the Trikke isn't just for kids. It comes in several models for people of all ages and sizes, and has become a popular way for young and old to work out while playing.
Models for kids start at $119. Adult-sized scooters start at $219.
The Xbox Kinect is the next big innovation in gaming, according to manufacturer Microsoft, and launched just in time for Christmas. The gaming system allows users to put down the remote and use themselves - their arms, legs and voice - to control the movements of the games.
True to its name, the Kinect attaches itself to existing Xbox 360 units, so there's no new console to buy, just the sensor.
"A lot of kids and gamers are interested in it because you are the controller," Friedland said. ''The Kinect is really a great way to play games with other people. It's really a great family time item."
Families and gamers alike are snatching the Kinect up quickly. Microsoft reports they sold 1 million units in the first 10 days.
"Since we started selling Kinect for Xbox 360 in all U.S. stores and on Walmart.com in early November, the gaming system sales have exceeded our expectations," said Jariwala. "In fact, on opening night we had customers waiting in many stores at midnight in order to bring it home first."
Of course, some of the hottest toys aren't necessarily the newest.
The National Retail Federation's "2010 Top Toys" survey shows old staples like Barbie, LEGO's and Hot Wheels are still in demand. Barbie topped the list for hot toys for girls in the poll that surveyed more than 8,700 consumers. Video games and LEGOs came in at No. 1 and 2 on the boy's list. Hot wheels rolled in at No. 5.
"While it's always interesting to see how pop culture drives hot girl's and boy's toys each year, it's just as exciting to witness the staying power of the more traditional toys like Barbie and LEGO," said Pam Goodfellow, a senior analyst at BIGresearch, the company that conducted the survey. "Gift givers who aren't quite sure what to get the children on their shopping lists should consider these types of toys 'best bets.'"
Like many boys his age, video games are at the top of 13-year-old D.J. Stearns wish list.
"My friends are interested in war games like Call of Duty and Halo. I'm interested in those games and strategy games," he said. "I also would like the new Rock Band game. I heard you can play keyboard and there's a feature on the guitar where you can play like a real guitar."
Ethan Casey, 12, also has a list of games he wants to find under the Christmas tree the year.
"I put Madden 11 and Call of Duty 2 for Playstation 2 on my list," he said. "The one thing I really want is a Wii. They're amazing. I like Mario Kart, Wii Resort, Wii Fit, Wii Sports."
He's also asking for an iPod to load up music from his favorite bands Skillet and Hawk Nelson.
Regardless of whether your child prefers current trends or more traditional toys, the National Retail Federation has some timeless advice for shoppers.
"With many retailers already discounting popular toys, parents should make sure to start their shopping sooner rather than later as 'hot' merchandise is hard to keep around," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.
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