EZ GIFT PICKS: 10 Toys for Kids

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Toys for Good Children, Gifted Children and Grandchildren (it goes without saying that if they’re the latter, they’re all three)

Starting with the youngest, and ending with the age after which nothing less than a grown-up tech toy like a Kobo, a Kindle or an iTunes gift card will satisfy, here are some genderless suggestions for the kids in your life — some new and hot this season, some timeless.

Moulin Roty
These soft toys are so irresistible you’ll want to adopt them instead of gift wrapping them. The French toy maker and manufacturing cooperative began as a community of families and friends, who decided to live and work together, renovating a ruined French farm to create workshops and homes. Their first toys were launched in 1975. They now have more than 40 employees, all full partners. Most of the toys are still made in France, including Tiny Nini Mouse, 20 cm and $23.95 at citizenkid, ca. A full range, from $25 to $157, is available on amazon.ca; in Toronto, pick one out in person at Bergo at the Distillery, which has an impressive inventory of Moulin Roty. Super appealing Soft Duck Jeanne comes in three sizes at Bergo, $25 to $68.50.

Playskool Sesame Street Big Hugs Elmo
Babies don’t say Mama as their first word anymore. They say Elmo. And this plush Elmo says 50 phrases including “Elmo loves getting hugs from you.” and “Let’s pretend we’re rabbits! Boing, boing, boing,” He also sings, dances and does everything but change diapers. What’s especially brilliant about Big Hugs Elmo is that, much to the relief of family members who will go mad if they hear “boing, boing, boing” one more time, you lay him down in a flat position, he goes sleep — albeit after singing a lullaby and making sleeping sound effects. $39.94 (Walmart) to $69.95 (Indigo, includes free shipping at indigo.ca) and almost everywhere that sells toys.

Lego Duplo
While kids ages four to teen are always thrilled to get Lego building sets, including Super Heroes and Star Wars for boys and Friends for girls, the tiny bricks and accessories are too small for tykes. But the Lego Duplo sets with bigger pieces are terrific toys for one to three-year olds, and even suitable for kids up to 5. There’s a huge selection of Duplo sets available at lego.ca, some with Disney themes, ranging in price from $9.99 to $109.99. A good choice is Lego Duplo My First Zoo, $24.95 at lego.ca, mastermindtoys.com; many Lego Duplo sets are available at most toy stores and toy departments.

Magnetic wood blocks are fascinating to play with and build with. They have all the creative possibilities of fine wooden blocks in classic shapes with the terrific added fun and animation of strong built-in magnets that attract and repel and defy gravity. Adults have been known to play with Tegu after the kids go to sleep but they’re safe even around toddlers who can use them too. Tegu blocks are made in Honduras of sustainainable wood. Boys and girls from 4 to 10 will be especially pleased with them. Sets come in natural wood, mahogany or different tints and range in price from $30 go $155 U.S. on the tegu.com site, which ships to Canada. A selection of sets are also available at amazon.ca, ranging in price from $35.59 to $196.29 and at mastermind.ca, from $34.95 to $109.95.

Disney Frozen
The holiday Disney animated movie looks like a winner and Mickey and Minnie, even Doc McStuffins and beloved Buzz may be frozen out this Christmas. Girls will love any of the sister princess dolls that feature in the movie and the character accessories while boys will appreciate the comic snowman sidekick, the plush reindeer Sven, the model castle and the playset that includes a heroic figure and sleigh. Prices range from $12.95 to $199.95 U.S. at the disneystore.com; most items also available at Disney stores in Canada, including Eaton Centre, and some available at other stores selling toys.

These geometric shaped magnetic tiles are transparent colored plastic. Magnets built into the edges make it possible to build basic cubes and pyramids if you’re a little person and bridges, mansions, castles, forts and skyscrapers if you’re bigger. There’s a real tactile satisfaction in placing these together and also significant educational value. Recommended for ages 3 and up but fun for everybody. The 32-piece set is $54.95 and the 100-piece set is $120 at mastermind.ca. Find more information about Magna-Tiles, the different sets and where they’re available in Canada at magnatiles.com.

Furby Boom
Is there anything this round furry interactive creature doesn’t do? Pop in 4 AA alkaline batteries and the new generation Furby responds like you wish your kids would. It remembers the name you give it and even remembers the names of other Furby Booms it meets. F.B. also has its own apps, so kids can build a Furblings City, collect and hatch virtual Furblings, play games with F.B. and give their Furby Boom creature virtual food, checkups, showers and more. Maker Hasbro also provides this somewhat chilling warning: “How you treat Furby Boom will shape its personality.” Recommended for ages 6 to 11. Around $60 at toysrus.ca, amazon. ca and at most toy stores and toy departments — but such a hot toy it may be hard to find.

Magic 8 Ball
It’s still fun for kids to ask the questions, both existential and trivial, and to get the answers that float up to the little window when you turn over the venerable Magic 8 Ball, now in its 60something year. Kids around the age of 7 are fascinated by all things magic and secret and this fits the bill, er, ball. Will kids ages 5 to 9 enjoy it,too? My sources say yes. Find it for around $11.95 at indigo.ca., bestbuy.ca and well.ca.

Pathfinder Running Horse Automata
This horse automaton moves forward and back while its legs kick out, running like the wind! Automata are whimsical mechanical toys that have lifelike movements when their crank is turned. Easy and fun to build for ages 8 and up, this creative toy pays homage to a pre-tech time when toys were made of wood and could be personalized by the builder. It gives kids an opportunity to explore the principles of mechanics and improve long lost model making skills, maybe with an appreciative adult looking on. While designed for horse lovers, kids can get extra creative and paint it to look like a zebra or unicorn. All pieces are pre-cut natural wood and glue is included. $12.95 at mastermind.ca

Leap Frog Ultra
It’s a sophisticated, ultra-tough tablet designed exclusively for kids who refuse to hand over the iPad or the iPhone when you really need to use them. This latest generation Leap Frog has a 7” hi-res screen and kid-safe Wi-Fi that works with 800+ fun and educator-approved games and apps. The library draws on 2,600 skills in auto-leveling games that adapt to your child’s pace in subjects like reading & writing, mathematics, creativity & life skills and science & social studies. They can use game cartridges or download apps directly to the device. The Ultra also has front-and-back cameras and video recorders, a built-in MP3 player, 8GB of storage and a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery. Happily (and necessarily), there are also simple-to-use parental settings. Recommended for ages 4 to 9 years. Around $145 to $160 at walmart.ca, sears.ca, toysrus,ca, indigo.ca and other toy stores and toy departments.