Gift Picks for the Grandkids

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Some of the hottest, trendiest toys this season either aren’t available in Canada or are already sold out for 2014. They’re being called “phygitals” because they combine physical play with digital play on a tablet or smartphone.

The one that’s not available in Canada and can’t be shipped here (but can be purchased in the U.S.) is the Lego Fusion Town Master. It sells for $35 U.S. and is recommended for ages 7 to 12. “It lets you scan your creations into a city-building game.”

Even more sophisticated but sold out until 2015 is Dash & Dot — robots that can be programmed to do almost anything kids want them to do (except clean up their rooms).

Dash & Dot can function simply as a fun, obedient robot toy for little ones. But supposedly, the program is so simple that even 5 to 7-year olds (and 65-year olds) can learn to code. The gizmo is sold out ‘til January and pre-order pricing ranges from $169 to $309 U.S.

Here are a dozen top toys that should be available in time for Christmas at Canadian stores or online:

Zoomer Dino Boomer ($69 to $120)
Last year there was Zoomer the dog (no relation to Zoomer the magazine), a remote-controlled pet that does tricks like rolling over, chasing its tail and lifting its leg to pee. The new and deliriously desired Dino Boomer robot does tricks too but is far more aggressive than its affable canine cousin. He roars! He chomps! He whips his tail! His eyes change colour with his moods. He follows you around. And only you, fortunate enough to receive this plastic prehistoric creature on Christmas morning, can tame him — or so says the promotional material.

Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa ($35 to $40)
You know what black holes are? Frozen is a white hole that’s swallowed every little girl. This doll sings Let It Go and lights up and is likely the #1 object of lust for every little snowflake princess. Therefore, she’s also almost impossible to find. However, promises to have her available again in early December. In lieu of, just in case, you may want to consider Ice Skating Elsa or Ice Skating Anna — or any one of another quadrillion Frozen items.

LeapPad3 Learning Tablet ($99 to $110)
This is what you give the kids when you don’t want to buy another iPad and don’t want the kids pestering you when you’re using your tablet or iPhone. Also when you just don’t want them pestering you. You can even feel good because there are lots of educational but fun.

TMNT action figures ($15 to $123 for the set)
Don’t know what TMNT stands for? Every boy knows its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and you could say they’re the equivalent of Barbies for boys because they’ve been around for a long time but never seem to go out of fashion.

Little Live Pets Birds and Bird Cage ($25 to $50)
These winged creatures twitter and tweet the old-fashioned way. They’ll respond to touch, sing and chirp and reward lots of attention with a whistled tune. Individual birds come in different colours with cutesy names — or doting grandparents can opt to spend more for a caged bird. I do know why the caged bird sings. It’s because of the AAA batteries.

K’NEX Supernova Blast Roller Coaster ($62 to 70)
Like all monster coasters, this one is scary. So I’ll just repeat what the promotional material says and you’ll see just how scary it is for your average grandma without an engineering degree: Use over 800 K’NEX pieces including classic flexi-rods to build a model over 3 feet high! The specialized blaster motor launches your car on an out-of-this-world adventure through 22 feet of NEW glow-in-the-dark track!! For more fun, download instructions for a 2nd coaster, the Sonic Boom. Requires 3 “C” batteries (not included). See what I mean?

Holiday Collector Barbie ($40)
It’s the 25th year for Holiday Barbie but she still has that tight-skinned, wide-eyed immovable expression that comes from too much plastic infusion, er, extrusion. For 2014, she’s wearing a glam red dress with gold trim and comes in a blonde or African-American version.

DohVinci Art Sets ($6 to $20)
It’s Doh as in Play-Doh, not the Simpsons’ Doh. This update of the update of plasticene is more like soft icing that you squeeze out to make artistic designs and then when it hardens you have a masterpiece for the ages — ages 4 to 8, that is. But kudos for the clever name.

Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch ($49 to $60)
You may be wishing for a Rolex on your wrist this Christmas but chances are your little one will show the same appreciation for this brightly coloured time piece that lets the wearer take photos, videos, play learning games and even tell time.

Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels and Smart Animals and Playsets ($8 to $75)
A combination of construction play and technology, these sets let kids build tracks and then send the vehicles or animals on a journey, passing “SmartPoints” that trigger a response: sounds, phrases, songs. Each vehicle or animal, which can be purchased separately, triggers a different response at different points on the track. Remember when, before electronic, there was “electric” — as in the “electric train” we hoped Santa would bring?

Lego Minecraft ($25 to $130), Lego Heartlake Shopping Mall ($130), Lego Movie Benny’s Spaceship ($120)
Lego is second only to Disney in seducing kids and supporting the Chinese economy but these magnificent new sets will keep your not-so-little-ones busy. Grandparents should know that hundreds of itty bitty tiny plastic pieces can also frustrate some kids who will then call on you for help and that way lies madness.

Paw Patrol Lookout Playset ($33), Doc McStuffins Time for Your Checkup Play Set ($59)
Paw Patrol and Doc McStuffins are two of kids’ favorite animated TV shows and these playsets with the popular characters let kids make up their own stories and scenes. But sometimes kids just make scenes…especially when they don’t get what they want.