Unlike the years when parents stood in long lines to grab up the almost-unobtainable Tickle Me Elmo or a tiny Zhu Zhu Pet, so far toy experts aren't predicting any one toy to take the 2011 Christmas selling season by storm. In fact, Christopher Byrne, known throughout the country as The Toy Guy, says in the third sales quarter, manufacturers were still "waiting for some indication about where the season is going to go."
"Fortunately, we talk to kids, as well as retailers and manufacturers, and we see several things that are going to be really great and on trend," says Byrne, who is director of content for TimeToPlayMag.com. "One of the benefits of prices being down is that the 'price of entry' for a hot toy is comparatively low versus previous years. That means a lot more kids will be able to be involved in what's hot, for things like $14.99 dolls and $11.99 cards sets (such as Redakai by Spin Master)."
For parents who are willing to spend a little more for a gift that is both fun and educational, Byrne recommends LeadPad Explorer by LeapFrog ($99). "It is an educational toy that looks like an iPad," he says. "Very cool!"
Pre-schoolers won't be disappointed if Santa drops by with two fun new Fisher-Price toys, says Brenda Andolina, director of public relations and brand marketing for Fisher-Price.
The Little People Zoo Talkers Animal Sounds Zoo ($39.99) is a fun Fisher-Price "learn while you play" toy. The interactive play set features animal recognition technology that brings animals to life.
"Play with animals continues to be a top-ranked play pattern for kids, and the Zoo Talkers adds so much more context to animal play that really sets it apart from competitors," Andolina says.
Little photographers will love the Kid-Tough See Yourself Camera ($69.99) that was introduced at Toy Fair 2011. "This camera offers a new dimension in the digital camera market that makes it easy to get a picture of yourself, among other things," she says, explaining it's a kid-proof digital camera/video recorder that's designed especially for little hands. With its rubberized sides and wrist straps, it's easy to grip but will keep working even when it is dropped again and again. Plus, it comes in different colors for boys and girls.
Older girls that want to be camera-ready will be enthralled with Mattel's Barbie Designable Hair Extensions ($31.99), Byrne says. "It's hair play meets high tech."
Speaking of Barbie, she's as popular as ever, says Bret Ingraham, a public relations representative for Mattel Brands. The traditional and collectible Holiday Barbie retails at $39.99 and wears a floor-length gown with a golden lame underskirt, embroidery and sparking jewel accents. Also new is Barbie I Can Be ... Architect doll ($13.99).
Girls ages 6 and up will be asking for Radica Figit Friends Interactive Toy ($49.99), predicts Ingraham. Mattel is calling them "every girl's best friend this holiday season." Figit Friends can talk and laugh, and are made of tactile skin that enables lifelike movements. Oh, and they can dance, too!
Older girls might prefer a different kind of doll that just happens to make both Mattel's and Byrne's "top" list. "The Monster High Dead Tired line are great ghoulish dolls that are appealing to older girls," Byrne says. Another selling point -- they retail for just $11.99 each.
Boys who love the excitement of World Wrestling Entertainment will be thrilled with the new WWE Flexforce Colossal Crashdown Arena Playset, says Ingraham. The $39.99 arena will really come to life when kids use it with the Mattel Flexforce Figures ($12.99).
But hey, who says Christmas is just for kids? Byrne believes the holidays are a great time to buy a gift that the whole family can enjoy. In 2011, he's recommending the Logo Board Game by Spin Master ($24.99). "It's a new family game that celebrates advertising," he says. "It's really fun."