Top Christmas Toys of 2012: Furby, Wii U, LeapPad 2 and More Popular Kids’ Gifts

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It’s that time of year again. The inevitable search for the perfect holiday gift has begun, and with Black Friday deals, extended holiday hours and cybercoupons all urging you to “buy now” and “save more,” the real challenge lies in what to spend your hard-earned cash on.

We’ve done the work for you, and have compiled a detailed list of this season’s six most-talked-about gadgets and collectibles, sure to paint festive smiles across your young ones’ faces.

1. LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer

After the successful LeapFrog’s LeapPad1 Explorer Tablet comes the LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer. LeapPad2 is for children with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for active gaming. This stylish tablet mimics the popular design of the ubiquitous iPad, in fun green or pink, so the kids can finally be just like Mom and Dad.

Designed for ages 3-9, the tablet allows children to plug away at interactive apps and play while learning. LeapPad2 offers a wide variety of games, eBooks, videos, music and more. The LeapPad2 features 4GB and an upgraded processor. With access to a library of 325-plus game cartridges and downloadable applications, the tablet comes stocked with four apps, plus one free app download. Here are the included apps:

  • Art Studio app
  • Cartoon Creativity app
  • LeapFrog Learning Songs app (including five songs)
  • Pet Pad Writing app

Kids can tap, touch, draw, turn, twist, shake or spin their way to hours of fun – this is no glorified video game, it’s the real deal!  Built-in front and back cameras with video-capturing capabilities will ensure hours of nonstop fun and excitement. The tablet is designed for learning and teaches subjects ranging from reading, art, music and language to math, geography and more. Parents are encouraged to check their progress.

The Essential Details:

  • Ages: 3-9
  • Gender: Both
  • Price: $99
  • Availability (as of 12/3): At Leapfrog.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com and others.
  • Product Specs: Sold with USB cable but requires four AA batteries (not included).
  • Accessories: Color-coded cases for added protection, game cartridges and a recharger pack available separately. Recharger pack selling for $34.04 at Amazon.com.
  • Bundles:  A Disney Princess Bundle, featuring an intricate design, seven Disney Princess-themed interactive wallpapers and sticker sheets, for $129.99 at Barnes and Noble. Other bundles include a Math & Science Bundle for $199.95, a Learn to Read Bundle for $169.96 and a Travel Bundle for $114.99.

 

2. ‘Skylanders: Giants’

Where can you get the excitement of action figures, the strategy of card games and interactive game play all in one? The answer is Activision’s “Skylanders: Giants,” which is the sequel to the 2011 video game “Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.” This holiday giant is the new “Pokemon” or “Beyblade,” aimed at boys age 6 and older.

“Skylanders: Giants” uses toys and collectible trading cards in conjunction with the virtual game play. Connect a monster, any of 48 action figures, to the Portal of Power to allow it into your gaming console: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS or PC/MAC.

These epic-fantasy battle toys merge with the game play to take on a life of their own through several playing options such as battle mode or story mode, unleashing a pantheon of imaginative monster characters ready to do your bidding.

“Skylanders: Giants” features the voice talents of well-known actors including George Takei and Patrick Warburton. Characters from the first game are also compatible, making extended and expandable game play a prized feature.

There is a Starter Pack for $74.99 (Best Buy, Kmart, Amazon.com, Toys R Us), which includes:

  • “Skylanders: Giants” game
  • Portal of Power (which connects the toy to the console, unleashing your character)
  • 3 Skylanders action figures
  • A character collection poster
  • 3 sticker sheets
  • 3 trading cards

There is also a $59 Portal Owners Pack for those who already have the connectivity associated with Spyro.

Each character has its own storyline, and the characters’ prices range from $9.99 for a single action figure (with a trading card) to $24.95 for a Battle Pack Toy Pack with three figures and trading cards.

The Essential Details:

  • Ages: 6 and older
  • Gender: Intended for boys
  • Price: $74.99 for starter pack, $59 for Portal Owners Pack
  • Availability (as of 12/3): At Best Buy, Kmart, Amazon.com, Toys R Us and others.
  • Accessories: Can purchase more figures separately.

 

3. Lego Friends for Girls

There might be no toy as universally known and timeless as Legos. This year, Lego introduced a new popular string of collectible Lego sets, called Lego Friends, designed specifically to introduce girls ages 6 to 12 to the wonderful world of connecting bricks.

Lego Friends follows the popularity of multiple Lego Packs (fully compatible with all Lego System bricks), similar to their adventure sets or “Star Wars”-themed packs.

Lego Friends features miniaturized, realistic appliances, furniture, Lego family figurines, pets, cars, trees and accessories that will encourage girls to “build, create, remodel and redecorate!” across a variety of packs, including, but not limited to: Butterfly Beauty Shop, City Park Café, Olivia’s Tree House, Stephanie’s Cool Convertible, Mia’s Puppy House, Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery, Emma’s Horse Trailer, Heartlake Flying Club, Emma’s Splash Pool and many more.

Note, however, that there has been some controversy surrounding gender stereotypes and Lego Friends. Some groups have accused Lego of perpetuating limiting gender stereotypes, while Lego has said that their goal is to expose girls to the positive aspects of construction play. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether Lego Friends are the right choice for the kids in your life.

The Essential Details:

  • Ages: 6-12
  • Gender: Intended for girls
  • Price: $6.99-$69.99
  • Availability (as of 12/3): At Target.com, Walmart.com, Amazon.com and others.

 

4. Monster High Dolls

Mattel, the company that brought you Barbie, has introduced another (slightly more monstrous) line of dolls. Monster High Dolls, for girls ages 6-15, are collectible, fully articulated dolls that are a fun and spooky alternative to typical fashion dolls. Punk-rock attitude and high-fashion chic can be found across a variety of the characters based on the popular Monster High Webisodes.

The dolls are a creative assortment of monsters and ghoulish divas that come packaged with theme-related pets, stands, a diary, a brush and accessories. Among the characters:

  • Nefera De Nile, a gold-and-turquoise-clad Cleopatra-inspired doll
  • Venus McFlytrap, a plant-monster-themed doll infused with a London punk style
  • Dot-Dead Gorgeous Spectra Vondergeist, a sassy, spooky poltergeist
  • Clawdeen Wolf, a girly werewolf
  • Ghouls Rule Draculaura … you get the picture!

The Essential Details:

  • Ages: 6-15
  • Gender: Intended for girls
  • Price: $12.99-$22.99
  • Availability (as of 12/3): At Mattel.com, Target.com, Toysrus.com and others
  • Product Specs: No batteries and no assembly required.
  • Accessories: Fashion and additional accessory packs are available, tailor-designed around themes like sea monsters, vampires, or ghouls. Get character or theme specific Create-A-Monster playsets to build dolls starting from $16.99 from Mattel.com, and a Monster High High School Playset to give the dolls a scary and exciting hangout to haunt.

 

5.  Furby

The popular Hasbro toy is back with features like never before. First, you can build your Furby, which is designed for boys and girls ages 6 and older, at furby.com. Choose from a large selection of fur- and eye-color combinations to make Furby your own.

Furby speaks Furbish and English, and responds to audio commands including your voice and music. Furby will dance, sing, talk and even eat, developing a personality unique to your child’s interaction. Unique to the new Furby is its ability to connect with an optional app, helping you translate Furbish. The app works with Apple products including iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone with iOS 4.2 and up.

The Essential Details:

  • Ages: 6 and older
  • Gender: Both
  • Price: $54
  • Availability (as of 12/3): At Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and others. Buy soon, however, as availability is already limited.
  • Product Specs: Requires four AA batteries (not included).
  • Accessories: Furby Sling Bag and Chair, bundled together for $25.94 at Walmart stores.
  • Bundles: Furby & Duracell AA batteries, 16-count Value Bundle for $63.97 at Walmart stores.

 

6.  Wii U

Gamers of all ages and types will surely be scrambling for the new Nintendo Wii U GamePad controller. The rechargeable Wii U enhances your video gaming experience by incorporating a 6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio LCD touch screen with the game’s usual button controls and analog sticks, connecting you wirelessly to both your console and the television in new and imaginative ways.

According to the Nintendo website, the Wii U GamePad also includes:

  • motion control
  • a front-facing camera
  • a microphone
  • stereo speakers
  • rumble features
  • a sensor bar
  • a stylus
  • built-in accelerometer and gyroscope
  • support for a memory card
  • support for Near Field Communication (NFC).
  • The Wii U GamePad is portable and powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Wii U includes an HDMI cable, a sensor bar and two AC adapters.

Play almost all of your favorite games in up to 1080p HD for the first time on a Nintendo gaming console. Download from Nintendo’s eShop directly from the Wii U controller, video chat and create your own Mii characters. Finally, with broadband connectivity, you can use your Wii U GamePad as a remote control, and even browse the Internet.

This is the must-have item for serious gamers who want full-control of their video gaming and entertainment at the (literal) tips of their fingers.

The Essential Details:

  • Ages: All
  • Gender: Both
  • Price: $299 for the Wii U 8GB Basic
  • Availability (as of 12/3): At Walmart.com, Target.com, Toyrus.com and others. Availability is expected to be very limited as Christmas approaches.
  • Product Specs: 6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio LCD touch screen.
  • Accessories: Wii U Microphone, Wii U Gamepad and Cradle Set, Wii PSWii21 U Protect and Play Case and others.
  • Bundles: Walmart.com has bundles with a Wii U, customer choice game and a Wii Plus Remote for $389. Gamestop.com has a Wii U 32GB Deluxe set, which includes Wii U and the Nintendo Land Game, for $349.99.

Christmas bag and toys photo from Shutterstock

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