Google search data reveals Bay Area's hottest holiday toys

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Whatever you Google the rest of the year, when it comes to the holidays, a lot of people are Googling toys -- and that's given Google's data scientists a pretty good idea of which toys are hot this year, and which not.

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At the sprawling Toys "R" Us store in Redwood City, you can already find parents starting to scramble for some items.

"The fingerlings if you can find one, they're really amazing," said Jennifer Lee, who was shopping with her 2-year-old daughter. "If you can find one. They're like nowhere."

Fingerlings are tiny plastic monkeys you can hold on your fingers. They respond to touch and movement by looking around and making monkey noises -- and according to Google, they're among the year's hottest toys nationwide.

"It's now selling for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars online," said Google spokesperson LaToya Drake in a satellite interview Thursday morning.

Drake said the search trends team looked at toys that weren't on the radar until about a month ago, then suddenly became all the rage. Those are the toys Google defines as "trending" -- the ones that are hot this season. And the Fingerlings weren't in first place.

"The most searched toy nationwide is something called KidiBuzz," Drake said.

Made by VTech -- which many parents might remember as a popular brand of cordless landline telephone when they were younger -- KidiBuzz is a smartphone-like device made especially for kids. And though it's popular across the country, it's not number one in the Bay Area, where Google found toy trends differed from most of the country.

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"The number one most searched toy in the Bay Area is a toy called LOL Surprise," Drake said.

LOL Surprise sells tiny dolls with oodles of fingernail-sized accessories, but the dolls are only half the fun. They come in a tightly-wrapped package that resembles a giant gumball, and kids peel away one layer at a time to reveal accessories, instructions, and outfits.

Drake says the dolls owe their popularity to the YouTube phenomenon of "unboxing" videos.

"There are so many videos of kids opening this LOL Surprise, and they look so delighted and so excited," she said.

Kids used to delight in other toys. Tickle Me Elmo took the world by storm in 1996, and now a new edition is hitting store shelves two decades later. Barbie's Dreamhouse has been a perennial favorite for several decades. But other toys come and go with the seasons.

"Last year, something called Hatchimals were the number one searched toy," Drake said. "We're not seeing those this year, and it goes to show you in some cases how short the lifecycle is for some of these toys."

Hatchimals -- the furry critters that hatch out of a plastic egg when you bring them home -- are still on shelves, now in a smaller edition that's nearly the same size as the original LOL Surprise (and the size of an egg you'd buy at the grocery store). And while the delight of these elaborate unboxings may be over in seconds, parents say it brings them joy they won't soon forget.

"To see your kid's face light up, i think it's really amazing to see that," Lee said.

Toys R Us has its own list of what makes kids light up in its stores -- which includes some toys like the furReal Robotic Tiger Cub that are big sellers in person, even if they aren't heavily searched on Google. We watched as one boy tried to sneak off with the floor sample while his dad wasn't looking.

"That's your pet, huh?" the father asked.

The kid sheepishly put the tiger back.

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