Some Christmas shopping suggestionsHit the snooze button on Black Friday. With no buzzed-about must-have toy this year and no expectation of major sales, parents can take the time to make shopping decisions the old-fashioned way: based on what their kids like to play.
By: Allison Kaplan, Pioneer Press (St. Paul) / MCT
Hit the snooze button on Black Friday. With no buzzed-about must-have toy this year and no expectation of major sales, parents can take the time to make shopping decisions the old-fashioned way: based on what their kids like to play.
"Hot toys are only hot if they're hot for your child," said toy expert Chris Byrne, director of content for timetoplaymag.com. Byrne, better known as "The Toy Guy," came to the Twin Cities this week to share his holiday picks at Sears Mall of America.
"President Obama is in Indonesia. There's substantive news happening," Byrne says. "I don't think we're going to see a lot of ZuZu Pet shortages making headlines."
Actually, no ZuZu Pets shortages are anticipated -- period. The robotic critters, superhot last year, are in the sale bin at many stores.
But Byrne predicts some popular toys will sell out by mid-December. Those swift sellers will likely include:
- Squinkies, the miniature dolls sold in gumball dispensers, 12 for $10.99.
- V. Reader, an animated e-reading system from VTech for ages 3 to 7, $59.99.
- Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS Blaster, a fully automatic clip system blaster, $49.99.
It's a big year for fashion dolls, automated trucks and games, too. More of Byrne's picks for young kids:
- Dance Star Mickey: Learn to dance with Mickey. He walks, talks and sings six songs, $69.99. "It's a novelty toy, but for 2- and 3-year-olds, it's just right - really keeps their attention," Byrne says.
- Leapster Explorer: The recommended introduction to handheld devices for 4- to 7-year-olds. This year's model got a high-tech upgrade and can be used to download game apps and videos in addition to playing educational games, $69.99.
- Stinky the Garbage Truck: A robotic truck that's also a comedian - it tells jokes, asks questions, plays games, $59.99. Says Byrne, "It keeps boys engaged. They have to play along for the truck to do things."
And because there can't be an iPad under every tree, Byrne suggests these products to engage tech-savvy tweens:
- Denkosekka: The latest from Japan, it's a retractable yo-yo with a magnet on the end to catch disks, $9.99 for the starter set for ages 7 and older. "Simple but intricate," Byrne says.
- Monster High: It's "Twilight" for little girls, with a humorous edge and a major marketing plan -- dolls, books, clothes, accessories, online experience, $16.99 per doll.
- Liv Dolls: Fashion dolls designed to represent "real girls" with wigs for changing hairstyles and an online component, $19.99.
- LEGO games: A new series of board games that you build with LEGOs before you play. There's Minotaurus, a maze game, a Harry Potter game and others, $19.99 and up.
The time to buy is now, Byrne says. While there are sure to be some Black Friday specials, retailers are trying to emphasize everyday value. To avoid price wars, Byrne says the big chains are shifting this year to exclusives. Disney Princess Small Dolls, for example, are only at Toys "R" Us this holiday season, so the price is unlikely to budge as Thanksgiving approaches.
The real deals will come closer to Christmas, when retailers start to get jumpy about holiday leftovers, Byrne says. But by then, Mickey may have danced his way out of stores.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.