This year's hot holiday toys

New holiday toys for 2009 reviewed by Time to Play:

Vivid Imaginations, $49.99; recommended for boys and girls 3 and up

AniMagic pets are just like real baby animals and respond to their owners just like a puppy, kitten, or pony would. Lap size and super soft, they interact, move, and make real animal sounds.

Pet them and they respond with a bark, meow, or whinny, while moving their head, twisting their neck, wiggling their ears, blinking their eyes, and wagging their tails.

The more you pet, cuddle, and feed AniMagic pets, the happier and more playful they become and the more sounds and movements they make. Honey loves when you pet and stroke her and loves eating her carrot.

Hear her "whinny" when you pet her back or forehead, then feed her the carrot and hear her munch.

Peanut and Dotty wag their tails when they're happy and bark for their bones, then bark again when they're full. Sandy and Snowflake meow for a bottle of milk and slurp it when they're fed.

Mega Brands, $14.99; recommended for boys 6 and up

Say goodbye to the strings and ripcords of traditional tops. Here come Battle Strikers, the ultimate kid-controlled spinning top battling system! Battle Strikers tops attach to a handheld unit-aka the Turbo Launcher.

With the push of a button they spin and are revved up. Learning just the right amount of power to give them is a key strategy.

When the tops are spinning, a quick flick of the wrist drops them-and they're ready to take on all comers. But that's not all. Once the tops are spinning, a magnetic finger cover, featuring MEGA Brands' MagNext technology, lets kids guide their tops into attack mode -or dodge an oncoming opponent. As always, the last top standing is the winner.

Crayola, $29.99; recommended for boys and girls 8 and up

Lets kids be the masters of their own personal wax works with unlimited possibilities! The bigger the stockpile of periwinkle pieces and little laser lemon nubs to add to the 8 crayons that come with the plug- in unit, the more colorful combinations of unique, recycled crayons they can crank out.

The Crayola Crayon Maker includes: 8 unlabeled crayons (2 ea. red, blue, yellow and green), one mold, and 2 plastic crayon connectors. No batteries are needed; however, a 60-watt candelabra light bulb is required.

I Can Do That! Games, $16.99; recommended for boys and girls 3 and up

Get ready to twist, turn and s-t-r-e-t-c-h! Can you put your hand on the letter E-while placing your foot on the letter K-AND still put your ear on the letter Q? You've got to be super-stretchy to meet the challenge!

In this silly game of physical challenges and alphabet fun, kids spin the Thing 1 and Thing 2 "toy-nado" to deal out letter-to-body-part challenges.

Then it's time to get down on the colorful, oversized Dr. Seuss alphabet mat and stretch and turn and twist to put your body and brain to the test. Each letter tile represents a household plaything.

When you successfully complete a challenge, you get to keep the tiles and put them in your toy chest. The player with the most tiles wins!

Spin Master, $19.99; recommended for girls 5 and up

The new Liv line is a collection of four dolls, each with a unique personality. The dolls have been designed to represent "real" girls, or at least idealized versions of attainable goals that pre-teens can relate to, rather than a total fantasy world. (After all for a pre-teen, that magical day when they become teenagers is a very real fantasy!)

Sophie, Katie, Alexis, and Daniela are fun, bold, funny, and have their own personalities. Sophie loves trying out new hairstyles on her friends because she wants to be a celeb stylist one day.

Daniela loves to sing and randomly breaks into song wherever she gets the urge. Alexis hopes to launch her very own fashion line someday. Katie can totally grind on her skateboard, but trips just crossing the street.

The beauty of Liv girls is that they embody real girls through their hobbies and fashion.

And just like real girls, the Liv girls love playing online. Their owners can join in the online fun at When you purchase a doll, you will also receive a secret access code that unlocks the Liv world.

In this safe online play area, you can read Liv girls' super secret diaries, watch videos, play games, try on virtual outfits, and take photos of Liv girls having fun!

Shred Sled, $119.99; recommended for boys or girls 8 and up

Are you ready to SHRED!? Start shredding in no time with the Shred Sled, the next generation caster board. The first 4-wheel, dual-deck inline caster board, the Shred Sled makes it smoother and easier to start carving up the streets.

How it works: Shred Sled's two boards and flexible connector allow both boards to rotate around the vertical and horizontal axes so it's easy to maneuver the board. The best part is you don't even have to push off!

For better control and traction, each deck has a grip surface to maximize traction and stability while the concave decks make for better foot control. The 4 x 80mm polyurethane wheels and ABEC-5 bearings are smoother and stronger than standard hardware and unlike other boards, rarely need to be replaced.

Riding the Shred Sled feels like a combination of snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing and it's much easier to control than older 2-wheel generation boards. Great for strengthening the legs and waist muscles, Shred Sled encourages kids to get off the couch and get active outdoors.

Learning Curve, $39.99; recommended for boys and girls 3 and up

Parents are always looking for toys that balance fun with education…and what better way to do it than with the brand new fully interactive electronic learning aid, the Super WHY! Touch & Learn Super Duper Computer from Learning Curve based on the adventures of reading-ready superhero characters from the popular PBS Series Super WHY!

This hands-on laptop is loaded with more than 35 fun and exciting literacy activities that help teach important early literacy skills like spelling, reading and problem solving in a really fun hands-on way.

One of the unique features on the Super WHY! Touch & Learn Super Duper Computer is its fully interactive touchscreen. Children can either use the "Why Writer Stylus" or their finger to make selections on the screen, making play and learning super easy.

The best part about the Super WHY! Touch & Learn Super Duper Computer is its "gro w with me" curriculum that offers multiple levels of play. So as your child's literacy skills grow and develop, the learning becomes more challenging and offers extended play value along with the educational value.

Tips from The Toy Guy:

  • Don't forget batteries.
  • Read the instructions!
  • Don't put purchases off, things are selling out.

About Chris Byrne, The Toy Guy:

As director of content for Time To Play, Chris brings 29 years of industry experience in the toy industry to his role. During his career, he has held a variety of positions with toy companies covering marketing, media, operations, product development and creative.

In 1988, he formed New York-based Byrne Communications and is a researcher, analyst, and consultant who has worked with a variety of Fortune 100 companies tracking kid trends, product development, and strategic marketing campaigns.

He is regularly sourced by the investment community for insights into all aspects of the toy industry.

Chris is widely published on the topic of toys and family life and in addition to his work with Time to Play he is editor-at-large for the trade publications Toys & Family Entertainment and Royalties.

Chris is extensively quoted in the media and appears regularly on local and national television commenting on toys and demonstrating new products. His media appearances reached more than 120 million consumers in 2007 in just a three-month period (October through December).

He has appeared on "Live! With Regis and Kelly" (2008 Relly Award winner), "Oprah," "LIVE," "Soap Talk," "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," "ABC Nightly News," "Fox & Friends," "CBS This Morning," "Good Day New York," CNBC, CNNfn, MSNBC, ABC, "The Motley Fool," National Public Radio, Bloomberg Television and Radio, and on countless other national and local market business and consumer programs around the country and internationally.

In addition to his work in the toy industry, Chris is involved in several non-profit organizations benefiting children and literacy and sits on the board of America Scores: New York, the nation's largest after school program that combines soccer and poetry in a unique mix that fosters literacy, fitness, teamwork and personal growth.

To learn more about Chris, visit

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