Metro Parent's Holiday Gift Guide 'It' List 2012: Animals and Critters
These cool toys span tech to plush to puzzles, for tykes to teens! Many have a creature theme – plus find the seasonal 'hot' toys, book-inspired stuff, 'explosively' awesome gear and more.
The mouse in that famous Christmas poem may have been snoozing away. But not the critters in Metro Parent's Holiday "It" List. No sir-ee. Our lively crew of animal-inspired gifts and goodies is ready to delight kids of all ages this season – from games, mittens, plushies and puzzles to water toys, spa stuff, high-tech critters compatible with your smartphone and even some super quirky clothing hangers.
Of course, that's not all Santa's stashed on his sleigh. Scroll through to find four "hot" toys this season – the Bat-Pod, Y Fliker scooter bike, Furby and One Direction dolls.
Also, peppered in between, we have cool gear celebrating some very big book birthdays in 2012 (Clifford, The Magic Tree House, Where's Waldo and Harry Potter) – as well as some "explosively awesome" extras (giant inflatable robot fists and volcano kits, anyone?).
Crafted with nostalgia in Colorado, these colorful, classic puzzles are a beautiful learning tool – and keepsake – for kids. Both "A to Z Dinosaur Puzzle" and "Butterfly A to Z Puzzle" feature 26 pieces made of natural rubber wood. Bonus: Each piece has upper-case letters on one side and lower-case on the other. Ages 3-plus. $30.
If you've got a Batman fans, they're going to love this R/C Bat-Pod – one of the anticipated hot sellers this holiday season. Its infrared remote control is equipped to handle over 1,000 programmable action-combo sequences – and, of course, it's got oodles of sound effects and light-up wheels. Remote takes 3 AA batteries; pod needs 4 AA batteries. Ages 4-plus. About $45.
Darwinism, get those dukes up! Go to fisticuffs with these ingenious mittens that pair up predators and prey of nature. The line includes cat vs. dog, frog vs. fly, lion vs. gazelle, wolf vs. sheep or owl vs. mouse. Invented by a couple of Syracuse University grad gals, these clever hand coverings come in adult and kids' sizes 4-7 (sweet gift idea for teens). Watch for socks, booties and scarves in 2013. About $26 a pair.
Did you know the jumbo-sized pooch turns 50 years old in 2012? To celebrate the big book hero, Patch Products has released a variety of games. In "Clifford You're Invited," everyone gets to be the pup – who's tossing one heck of a beach party. Pass out those invitations to his buddies Cleo, T-Bone, Mac and Mimi pronto to win! Ages 3-plus. About $20.
Squid-bee-bird? Frog-shark-tiger? These wacky mix-and-match animals, which stretch 22 inches long, make such combos possible – and tons more. That's because each of these six critters unzips into three separate pieces that are completely re-zippable with other creature parts. Creators say that gives you about some 2,303 possibilities! Ages 2-plus. $25 each.
This clever little game from Blue Orange is sure to keep your family's wits sharp. It combines a puzzle and brainteaser "in the same slice of cheese." There are only nine wooden pieces, but don't be deceived: This one-person brain bender is a tricky feat as you attempt to match up the "cheese holes" on all four sides of each slice. Ages 7-plus. About $13.
Present that Christmas sweater on a cucumber-cool cat – or have your hipster teen get his hoodie off the floor and onto a bowtie-sporting bulldog. These wooden novelty hangers from Urban Outfitters are a fun touch to any kid's closet. Species also include a fox, wolf – and a variety of other kitties and dogs. $12 each.
Have you played with these critters online? Well, now, the adoptable virtual pets have jumped off the screen into the 3D play world – thanks to these anagurami-caliber adorable mini R/C robots. The creatures, which include Ginger Snap, DJ Quack, Oddie and oodles of others, move around by way of snazzy vibrating technology. They have their own pintsized play sets, too. Ages 3-plus. Bots are about $6, and play sets range $8-$30.
Watch your kid zip, zoom and fly down the sidewalk on this hot new three-wheel scooter from Yvolution. A holiday season 2012 hot toy just imported from the UK, this clever, self-propelling wheeled wonder uses sheer body power, making it a great get-active pick for kids. There are versions for children and adults. Ages 5-plus. About $100 at Toys R Us.
Turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a chatty, interactive bear with this furry smartphone suit – which chirps to life thanks to an app you can download at no extra charge. This orange little pal loves to play learning games, tell jokes and both listen and respond to your kids – and even likes having his ears scratched. Ages 4-plus. About $30.
After 25 years, maybe you still can't find Waldo. But now, fortunately, you can be Waldo instead – in celebration of the illusive book character's quarter-century birthday. It's a Peruvian-style knit number with braided tassels that's sure to turn heads (while keeping yours warm). One size fits all. About $18.
Wanna wrestle? These throwback inflatable punching bags are cruisin' for a bruisin'! Remember when Bozo was the bop-bag of choice? Today, it's a merry trio of three-foot-tall critters, including an elephant, bear and penguin – with a softer message: "Hug Them. Love Them. Help Them Bounce Back." To boot, their soft cotton covers are totally washable. Ages 2-plus. $60 each.
Finally: Tatts that look so sweet, you just might wish they lasted forever. Go figure: Mom "swissmiss" created them after "applying many bad clip-art tattoos on her daughter," Tattly's website reports. Now, you'll find over 250 eye-popping, incredible options, ranging from animals, bikes and food to inspirational and typographic fare. All ages. $5-$15.
Like the lads sing, it's the "Little Things" – and now, thanks to these collector dolls, it's true in more ways than one. Your tween can hang out with all five guys from UK boy-band sensation One Direction – Liam, Niall, Zayn, Louis and Harry – any time, thanks to these new fashion dolls from Hasbro, complete with microphones and outfits. Ages 5-plus. $30 each.
Eek, three bugs in the tub! Hurry, kid, better scoop them up. Saving this bright, water-gliding trio from the suds is a blast with the included net. Not only does this bright "catch of the day" sport a really rad design; it's also totally free of BPA, Phthalate and PVC. We call that a winning bath toy. 9 months-plus. About $10.
Can you believe "The Boy Who Lived" is hitting his 15th year on paper in 2012? Celebrate by taking at trip to Hogwarts to visit Harry Potter's friends and foes with this uber play set, which kids construct from the iconic plastic building blocks. Help Harry defeat a Dementor, a Death Eater and Gregory Goyle. Ages 7-plus. About $50.
Five ordinary lunch sacks get crafty, wacky makeovers with this awesome DIY kit by Alex Toys. Kids construct a quintet of creatures using the 225 included stickers, along with paper shapes and other supplies. Making a "Moody Monster" party is a snap. Ages 3-plus. About $12 each.
Retro pops off-screen as P-Man and Blinky zip around your house to authentic sound effects of the original game with this keen, officially licensed little UK import. For extra flair, even the R/C system is set up like joystick controllers. Each racer requires three AAA batteries, and each joystick needs four, which aren't included. Ages 4-plus. About $45.
The ultimate sibling showdown toy? With this comfy, inflatable gear, kids can finally deliver an over-sized knuckle sandwich. Naturally, though, be cautious: Over-inflation, pummeling and other reckless moves can leave you with broken household items, injured kids or popped fists. Still, we couldn't resist tossing this one on our list. $34.99.
Someone's gotta save the world. Why not plush veggies? This menagerie of softies – which also has a line of books and DVDs that encourage healthy lifestyles with yoga, cooking segments and more – includes a bevy of healthy choices, from Brian Broccoli and Colby Carrot to Suzy Sweetpea and Erica Eggplant. All ages. Toys are about $25 each.
Grrls can sink their talons into this animal-print-studded gear, from a zebra inflatable pedicure pool to leopard press-on nail stickers and flip flops. This pamper kit, which includes 30-plus pieces, also has a satin eye mask, toe separators, four bottles of nail polish and a nail dryer (takes two AA batteries; not included). Ages 9-15. About $40.
It's been 20 years since the very first Magic Tree House book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, rocked tweens' world. To celebrate, Barnes & Noble teamed up with Random House to offer this exclusive book and model kit. It includes two glow-in-the-dark dino models (a T-rex and Triceratops), a dinosaur "fact tracker" book and activity sheet. Ages 6+. $13.49.
Furby is back – with a major upgrade! The little creature, with "a mind of its own," has digital eyes, his own vocabulary and even interacts with your smartphone. Dust off that ol' Furbish dictionary – or download the app. Kids can feed, talk to and care for Furby. Just remember: Your actions shape Furby's personality! Requires four AA batteries (not included). Ages 6-plus. $60.
These aren't your pedometers of yesteryear. Sporting some really nifty designs, from butterflies and ladybugs to wicked cool Skelanimals, these pals track kids' steps all day long, saving them to the GeoPalz website. Then, kids can log in, convert their miles into points and win prizes, get certificates and more. Ages 5-12. $25.
Silly Putty gets a freaky creature update that came from Planet Gloopiter. Each guy includes putty and parts that kids can sculpt into a monster of their choosing – then festoon with arms, eyes and feet. After, simply mash it up and start again, or leave it out overnight (it melts into a puddle). Available in red, green and blue. Ages 4-plus. $8 each.
Mixing things that go "boom" with earth-shaking dinosaurs sounds like a winning combo to us! This play set includes three dinos, two lava powders, googly eyes, a plastic lava shovel and, of course, black slime for the pit. (Includes enough powder to set off volcano 20 times). Ages 6+. $13.95.
Tykes help Zookeeper Tim round up his colorful menagerie of giraffes, chameleons, flamingos and more in 10 games designed for 2-4 players. Games are designed to help kids learn counting, quantities, tactile skills, colors, shapes, memory skills and more. This pick from German toy maker HABA includes 25 wooden play figures. Ages 3-9. $42.
If Popples and Strawberry Shortcake collided, it might look like this: Coo-worthy pets, complete with frosting hats, that pop out of cupcake wrappers. Each has its own "whimsical back story," notes creator Well Made Toy Manufacturing Corporation, and pairs cute faces with collectible appeal. Ages 3-7. About $16 each.
It's a bike ... it's a scooter ... it's both! Your kid will definitely turn heads on this contraption, touted as an "extreme balance machine" that mashes up skateboarding and BMX. Created by two brothers considered legends in the motorsport field, the Sbyke is a must for daredevil kids. About $250. Ages 8-plus.