A quick guide to holiday toys:
Nature and science toys from River Legacy Acorns gift shop
What is it? Buzzy the Bumblebee soft back book ($6.95), Bugifiers magnifying glass ($7.99), Bugzzzzz! Grasshopper and Dragonfly toys with sounds ($9.99ea), Folkmanis bee hand puppet ($13.99), Gecko notepad and pen ($3.99). Proceeds from the gift shop help support Science Center educational programs.
Why the kids will like it: All the items are well made and the science theme makes them a perfect holiday gift for boys and girls. The Buzzy book teaches kids that believing in themselves is all they need to conquer obstacles and take flight in the world.
Recommended ages: 3 to 8
Cost: $3.99-$14.99 at http://www.riverlegacy.org
What is it? The latest entry in the field are Playskool’s Kota & Pals Hatchlings — soft, snuggly "newborn" dinosaurs, including T. rex, pterodactyl, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, hadrosaur and triceratops.
Why the kids will like it: They wake up when you touch their tongues, move like living creatures and roar with prehistoric fervor.
JoeBot by Wowwee
What is it? A interactive walking, talking robot that talks back to you -- really. JoeBot's LED sensors detect movement when he's in "Game Mode" and helps him avoid object when he's in "Battle Mode." Be warned: if you activate his Conversation Mode, he talks and talks and talks, and doesn't shut up. He's best when you can control him with the hand controls.
Why the kids will like it: His quick (sometimes hard to hear) responses will delight the kids and a standard remote control can become a kid's "weapon" against JoeBot in "Battle Mode."
Recommended ages: 8 and older
Senario’s My Secret Circle
What is it? My Secret Circle is a "social networking world" for girls that allows them to interact with friends online — in voice chats, blogs, journals, photos, profiles, games — with their security assured because it’s all locked into USB keys with unique ID codes. Only those who know the codes have access.
Why the kids will like it:It’s not a Web site; it’s a proprietary browser &mdash and allows preteen and teenage to converse without worrying about online predators.
Recommended ages: 8 to 12
My Discovery World Map
What is it? The interactive placemat talks to you as you move from continent to continent and learn about animals and where they live. There are five different game settings that teach kids about the animals through music, touch and riddles designed to help build logic, memory and observation skills.
Why the kids will like it: The games engage the kids and the pictures are like cartoons. Sometimes, the touchpad is hard to push for the younger kids.
Recommended ages: 3 to 5
Zillionz "The Original" Counting Money Jar
What is it? When you put a coin through the slot in the top of the clear acrylic jar, the jar electronically adds it to the total and an LCD readout tells you how much you have.
Why the kids will like it: Watching the number grow encourages saving and makes it fun for kids.
Recommended ages: 5 and older
Mentor InterActive’s My Virtual Tutor
What is it? Instead of chiding your child for using the Nintendo DS to play that chipmunk game all the time, play a game of your own by replacing the cartridge with this — dare we say it? — educational game. My Virtual Tutor improves reading and comprehension as the student reacts to questions, answers tests and works out exercises embedded in interactive books; parents can check progress with a report function.
Why the kids will like it: Kids won't get bored on long drives.Road trip anyone?
Recommended ages: Pre-K to Grade 3
Backyard Football 10 for Wii
What is it? The update to this popular videogame allows you to choose your own teams with NFL Superstars as kids! The mini-Tom Bradys and Tony Romos play one game or for the whole season. The new version has "power ups" where players can do some fancy moves such as front flips and stiff arms. The new version also allows more players and allows two people to play one one team, which is a great way for Dad and kid to get involved together. The XBOX 360 version is slightly better control and response times for players.
Why the kids will like it: It's perfect for the avid football fan who is not quite old enough for the Madden games.
Recommended ages: 8 and older
Skinit’s Twilight Saga Skins
What is it? They say these popular "skins" by Skinit are useful in protecting MP3 players, cellphones and laptops from dirt and scratches. Riiiiight. The fact that Robert Pattinson’s drool-inducing visage peers out at the phone’s fluttering-heart owner has nothing to do with it.
Why the kids will like it: Skinit says there are more than 3,000 devices that are compatible with its line of vinyl skins inspired by The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which means the images of Pattinson and co-stars Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart could conceivably cover every inch of that 14-year-old’s bedroom.
Recommended ages: 9 and older
What is it?The iblink’s main draw is the built-in LED lights that flash to the beat — so bright that they can be mistaken for police flashers in a darkened car — but the bass boost and noise-isolation factor are superior to similar earwear at higher prices.
Why the kids will like it: The lights are easy to turn off, there’s volume control, and the 44-inch cord-length earbuds come with a special USB cable for charging up the lights.
Recommended ages: 12 and older
Digital Blue’s LEGO Alarm Clock Radio
What is it? This blue block is 10 times the size of a regular LEGO brick and houses an easy-to-use alarm clock with an AM/FM radio, a battery backup and a large snooze button. The studs at the top are the volume control and radio tuner.
Why the kids will like it: What kids doesn't like Lego?
Recommended ages: 8 and older
Sakar International’s SpongeBob Underwater Digital Camera
What is it? Just when you thought you’d seen SpongeBob everywhere possible, he shows up . . . underwater. This kid-friendly camera by Sakar International comes with a case that keeps the camera safe in water for up to 30 feet, for all the scuba-diving preschoolers in the family. Shoot up to 152 digital photos in or out of the pool; upload them on the supplied software (using the supplied USB cable) and import them into one of five games built into the disc. Once the camera is connected by that cable, it becomes a mobile webcam.
Why the kids will like it: Duh....it's SpongeBob.
Recommended ages: 4 and older