2012 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids
by Meredith L. Phillips, a.k.a. Ms. Cheapskate
As the holidays quickly approach, there is a sea of new toys in stores and online. Sometimes the overwhelming amount of choices gives way to regrettable purchases and unhappy recipients. To keep you informed of the hot new toys and best bargains, I have collected info on hundreds of this season's favorites, narrowed the list to the very best and even found my favorites online for you to make your shopping smoother and leave your wallet fatter. Each item tested and approved is listed below with a few pertinent facts, as well as a couple of the cheapest places to purchase and the best price currently listed. Season's Greetings and Happy Shopping from Ms. Cheapskate!
Curious Chef 27-Piece Foundation Set
This well-rounded cooking and baking set gives your child the tools for basic mixing and baking. Measuring spoons, cookie cutters, a rolling pin, an apron and oven mitts are just a few of the items that give your child a headstart on becoming a world-class chef. From a cupcake pan with silicone liners to decorating tools, this takes your child from play to pro, all specially sized and easy to grip. Well-made and dishwasher safe, these are tools, not toys, and yet they provide long-lasting fun. Amazon and CuriousChef.com, starting at $56.
Hershey's Snap Apart Snowman & York Snowflake Peppermint Pattie
Once again, Hershey's takes a couple of old favorites and makes them new again, just in time for the perfect stocking stuffers. The Snap Apart Snowman in familiar Hershey's milk chocolate easily breaks into bite-sized pieces. The York Snowflake dresses up the traditional pattie into a festive flake of frosty goodness. Hershey and York items can be found just about anywhere candy is sold.
K'NEX Tinkertoy Transit Building Set
From Playskool, these classic-style Tinkertoys come in a set of 150 pieces with 15 building ideas included. Recommended for ages three and up, this impressive set provides plenty of imaginative play and is packaged in a reusable lidded box for easy cleanup. Kmart and Amazon, $40.
Fisher Price Apptivity Case
For all the babies in love with Mommy's iPhone, and all the mommies who want their iPhone to stay safe while Baby stays happy, the Apptivity Case is the perfect solution. While protecting your phone from scratches and drool and blocking access to the home button, this case is easy to grasp, is brightly colored, has a mirror and rattles to entertain your little one. Oh, and it has its own apps, too! Free to download with purchase of the case, the four apps teach the basics like shapes, colors and animal noises. The Apptivity Case is recommended for babies and toddlers age six months and up and is compatible with iPhones and the iPod Touch. Kmart and Target, starting at $10.
A great little stocking stuffer, Floppets characters can be worn on flip flops, shoelaces, backpacks and fingers. The pets, monsters and sports characters can be collected and traded, then linked together with their tethers to make rings and bracelets, personalized to the interests and tastes of your child. Great for boys and girls, wearable Floppets can decorate anything to which you can attach them. Walgreens and various gift and toy stores, $2.
Moos Like Jagger
This adorable upright cow moo-ves and grooves as it sings a parody of the Maroon 5 hit "Moves Like Jagger." For ages three and up, he brings smiles and giggles to young and old in his denim and leather outfit. Cuddle-Barn.com, $30.
Hog Wild Moo Popper
A safer alternative to most "shooting" toys, the Moo Popper includes six foam balls that pop out of his mouth. Squeeze his tummy, and a soft, safe ball launches up to 20 feet. Fun and friendly, this farm animal gets a lot of laughs without teaching violence. Hallmark, toy stores, Amazon, starting at $10.
While it has a traditional wooden toy appearance, this Peek-A-Boo Ball from Wonderworld offers a twist. Roll it across the floor to see little faces pop out to greet your little one. Designed for ages three months and up, this eco-friendly ball has non-toxic paint and finishes, so there are no worries when it inevitably ends up in your child's mouth. Toys R Us and Amazon, $10.
The objective is to carefully load up this cute grill without setting it off. Add or remove the piece of food shown on your drawn card. If the grill jumps, you lose a turn and put all the food back on the table. The first player to have only three pieces left wins. For two or more players ages four and up, Barbeque Party takes only about 15 minutes to play. Along with the grill, included are a pair of tongs, 16 play food pieces and 18 cards. Amazon and Toys R Us, starting at $20.
This beautiful hardbound collection of Norman Bridwell's first six Clifford books features full-color original illustrations and an original letter from Bridwell to his readers. This 50th anniversary collection from Scholastic has 182 pages and is a wonderful addition to any young reader's library. Walmart and Barnes & Noble, $8.
Star Wars - A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure
From Scholastic, this 3-D pop-up book is a must for young Star Wars fans. With pull tabs, working lightsabers and pop-ups, this book leads fans through the stories, characters, planets and other aspects of the prequel movies. Pop-up author Matthew Reinhart is an admitted Star Wars fan and collector, and his attention to detail shines in this edition. Barnes & Noble and Target, $23.
Wee Believers Joseph's Helper Tool Set & Apron
This cotton canvas apron has pockets for its eight-piece wooden tool set, but more importantly, the story of Joseph the Carpenter is printed on the back. For ages three and up, this is a long-lasting, well-made gift. The tools wipe off easily, and the apron is sturdy and washable. For those looking for a gift with meaning, especially one tied to the holiday season, this is an excellent choice. Parable.com and WeeBelievers.com, $25.
Wee Believers Noah's Ark Foam Tub Toys
Bring the story of Noah's Ark to your kid's bathtime. Noah's animals and ark stick to tub and shower surfaces when wet and float in the bath to keep your little one entertained. The mesh storage bag has suction cups to keep it handy and make cleanup quick and easy. Your child, aged three and up, has a place to corral the 16 pieces and allow them to drip dry right into the tub or shower. The pieces do not absorb water but are easily cleaned as needed by a quick rinse and air dry. The story of Noah is printed on a small attached card, which unfortunately is not also waterproof but short and sweet to keep bathtime fun. WeeBelievers.com, $15.
Learning Resources Farmers Market Color Sorting Set
This 25-piece set of brightly colored fruits and vegetables and five color-labeled baskets provide your child with hours of sorting, counting and other educational activities. They will love pretending to shop and cook with these, inspiring healthy choices for the future. Fun ideas for play and learning are also included for children three and up. Amazon and Target starting at $26.
Magic Moves Wand
From Educational Insights, this nifty wand plays 26 tunes and suggests 90 moves to get kids up and active. With accompanying light shows, kids can dance and play like rock stars. Any toy that gets a kid off the couch and moving has our vote, but the silly suggestions and fun songs are also a hit with kids. Amazon and Kmart, starting at $13.
Lamaze Turtle Tunes?
This brightly colored turtle plays musical notes as your little one pushes different colored parts of the shell. Lamaze knows babies, and from the colors to the textures to the different modes of musical play, babies love touching and snuggling with this adorable turtle. Toys R Us and Amazon, $23.
These long sleeve hoodies are quite unique. Their bright colors and sharp detail are only the beginning. Cross your arms, and the fun begins! The design becomes a mouth to match the character depicted on the shirt front. Featuring all sorts of creatures, from sock monkeys and tree frogs to sharks and t-rex, these hoodies are like nothing we have ever seen. Your kid will have a blast showing off his new hoodie and making it "talk" or even "bite!" But the fun doesn't stop there - they come in adult sizes, so be sure to get yourself one, too! They do tend to run a bit small and do not shrink or stretch, so unless you are smaller than average, Mouth Man advises ordering up a size just to be safe. MouthMan.com and Amazon, starting at $25.
Crayola Color Wonder Light Up Palette
One brush, six paint colors and the magic of Color Wonder gives your preschooler the freedom to paint without your worries of messy drips, splaterrs and spills. Just dip the brush into the translucent paint, and the entire palette lights up to match the chosen color. The paint itself only shows up on the special Color Wonder paper, of which 20 sheets are included. A sponge is included for wiping the brush in between colors and for cleanup after your artist is finished with his latest masterpiece. The palette requires three AA batteries, which are not included. Target and Walmart, $20.
These funny shirts are a great conversation starter for teens. Artist and creator Jason Tharp believes that more people should just say "hi." So he created Ohiya shirts, buttons, artwork, stickers and more with characters such as the yucky Zombuddies and a gassy unicorn named Corni. Sure to get at least a smile, these icebreaker shirts encourage people to stop being so serious and start making friends. GoHastings.com, $14.
Fireworks Roman Candle Fireball Blaster
Fireworks are great to watch but not something we usually want to put into kids' hands with some serious safety training. This Blaster from Uncle Milton Toys provides a safe and awesome firework experience with no burns, no fire and no hearing loss for kids ages five and up! With two AAA batteries, not included, shoot the three balls up to 25 feet into the air for an amazing light and sound effect! Amazon and Toys R Us, starting at $9.
Playskool Jump & Jam Guitar
For ages nine months and up, this rocking guitar plays over ten songs and sounds, including popular tunes from KISS and The Romantics. The faster your child moves the guitar, the faster it plays. They can also trigger lights and add more sounds as they play. A volume button is handy when the fun wears off for Mom and Dad. The Jump & Jam Guitar requires three AA batteries, and happily, they are included so your little one can play with it right out of the box! Kmart and Amazon, $20.
Tallie's Christmas Lights Surprise
This holiday tale of a girl named Tallie and the mysterious disappearance of her Christmas lights leads you on her search for the culprit. Beautifully illustrated and hardbound, this book from Pelican Publishing makes an excellent gift for a young reader, or keep it to read to your children at a holiday storytime with milk and cookies by the fire. Amazon, $14
Winx Club Dance Mat
With three familiar songs from the hit Nickelodeon show, this "Groove & Glow" dance mat encourages kids to get up and get moving. As your child dances along, sparkling lights flash to the beat. An MP3 plug-in allows for more dance inspiration. Three AA batteries are reuqired and not included, but are a small investment to get kids off the couch. Target and Kmart, starting at $24.
Skylanders Giants Arkeyan Copter Attack
From Mega Bloks, this 138-piece set allows your kid to build Spyro and his Arkeyan Copter to launch an aerial attack on and steal the treasure chest from his enemies. Building and creating the scene while they learn to follow instructions and gain hand-eye coordination is only part of the fun. The ensuing battle and chase between the Skylanders characters will continue to entertain your child. This Skylanders set is recommended for children ages five and up. Amazon and Toys R Us, starting at $30.
Batman the Dark Knight Rises The Bat
The Bat with Launch and Attack Batman brings the action of the film into your home. Launching missiles, as well as its driver, Batman himself, this vehicle is incredibly detailed and ready for reenacting any super hero mission. The Bat includes three button cell batteries, two projectiles and one flying foam Dark Knight. The Bat features battle sounds and a handle for aiming your attack. Due to the small pieces, this vehicle is not for children under age three. Amazon and Kmart, starting at $26.
American Girl Caroline
The latest edition to the American Girl collection is Caroline Abbott, whose father is captured in the War of 1812, leaving her to help run his shipyard. An opportunity to rescue her father leads her on a personal journey that your American girl fan will love to read. The 18" doll's pink dress and long blonde hair is another fine example of AG's craftsmanship that brings to life these historical characters. Boxed with her book, this and all American Girl dolls are marketed for girls ages three to 12. American Girl, $105.