Despite my best intentions, it never fails that no matter how far in advance I attempt to plan, I'm left scrambling at the last minute to come up with the perfect holiday gifts for my kids. Last year was the perfect storm of procrastination and time flying, as Hanukkah began on Thanksgiving - crazy! This year, I might have a bit more time, but that doesn't mean I couldn't use all the help I can get in the gift giving department. Fortunately, my friends at The Big Toy Book, The Toy Insider and Woman's Day Magazine were kind enough to include me in their annual holiday toy extravaganza, otherwise known as the HoliDAY of Play! This fun-filled afternoon not only allowed me to catch up with some of my favorite bloggers, but also conveniently helped me check several boxes off my holiday gift list. Talk about a win/win!
Held atop the super sleek Hearst Tower, which boasts stunning views of Central Park, the HoliDAY of Play showcased an array of toys for girls and boys of all ages from a variety of participating sponsors, including Hasbro, Jakks Pacific, Jazwares, Funrise Toys, Rubie's Costume Co., Little Scholar, Laser Pegs, Toca Boca, Tomy, VTech, ChizComm, Crayola, Cloud b, Battat, and more. Indeed, it's a good thing the party was just for grownups, as I don't think they could have ever persuaded any kid in attendance to leave! I walked away with a fabulous bag filled with many of the toys displayed at the event, as well as invaluable insight into the very best toys for the 2014 holiday season. It would be impossible to describe all of the wonderful toys showcased at the HoliDAY of Play, so I picked some of my favorites to highlight for you, as I just know they'd be a hit with any lucky recipient this holiday season.
Here are my top picks from The Big Toy Book's HoliDAY of Play:
LET'S IMAGINE ELMO (MSRP $39.99; ages 2-4): Hasbro's latest addition to the Elmo toy lineup is going to be the darling of the Elmo-obsessed toddler set, who will adore the way the interactive plush brings the learning adventures from the "Elmo the Musical" segments of Sesame Street off the screen and into the family room. This cute 13-inch Elmo pal comes with three different hats that unlock different imaginary themes and play modes, including Prince Elmo, Cowboy Elmo and Sea Captain Elmo - so fun!
GEEK & CO. SCIENCE KITS(MSRP $19.95; ages 8 and up): STEM is a hot trend for this holiday season, and budding scientists are sure to love this new line of 12 science kits from Thames & Kosmos. The kits use fun, hands-on activities to create a pathway into fundamental subjects including chemistry, engineering and electronics. Kids stay engaged as they craft, build and construct a tangible, keepsake item such as a Plasma Reactor, a Neon Light Writer, Crystal Jewelry, a Musical UFO and more.
SPAGHETTI HEADZ (MSRP $13.99 for a 3-pack; ages 3 and up): These new hair twists for girls are the ultimate stocking stuffers! Available in a variety of collectible, themed charm packages, the eco-friendly swirls twist easily into your favorite girl's hair and can be cut to size depending on hair length. I'm already envisioning my daughter and her friends going nuts for these!
JAKKS PACIFIC SNOW GLOW ELSA (MSRP $34.99; ages 3 and up): Let's face it, the "Frozen" craze is not going away anytime soon. And unlike last year's holiday season, during which "Frozen" merchandise was nowhere to be found, this year you'll have your choice of an array of products starring everyone's favorite sisters and snowman. One of the biggest hits of the season is sure to be Snow Glow Elsa, a beautiful doll that lets Elsa's power flurry. With a touch of her magical snowflake necklace, kids can hear Elsa talk and watch as her dress lights up. She also sings "Let it Go" in English and Spanish and features the patented "Royal Reflection Eyes," which truly are a sight to behold.
B. TOYS ROCKESTRA (MSRP $39.99; ages 3 and up): My music-obsessed toddler would go nuts for this innovative toy, which lets kids play rock star as they mix and match 15 songs, 7 instruments and vocals to come up with endless combinations of sounds. Included concert notes provide the lyrics so kids can sing along, and the stage lights up so kids can feel just like a real rock star. Rock on!
VTECH INNOTAB MAX(MSRP $109.99; ages 3-9): VTech's first Android-based device and fastest tablet yet provides a unique combination of an educator-supported learning library and carefully curated selection of Android apps for learning fun. It also sports a multi-touch screen with high-resolution display, a kid-safe WiFi and Android operating system, and a removable kid-friendly cover. This is the device that's going to let your kids truly feel like they have a "grown up" tablet, especially when they're (safely) messaging you and their friends with the VTech Kid Connect app!
SCHOOL ZONE LITTLE SCHOLAR TABLET (MSRP $169.99 ; ages 3-7): Another fabulous entry into the children's tablet arena is this device designed especially for kids in pre-k through 1st grade. Little Scholar teaches kids essential school skills and comes fully loaded with more than 200 uniquely fun apps, books, songs and videos (a $390 value). Parents will appreciate their ability to track their child's progress via the A+ app, as well as the fact that the Little Scholar tablet comes ready to go right out of the box - no extra purchases, downloads or WiFi necessary (although additional content can be uploaded).
BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP "FROZEN" ITEMS (MSRP $25; ages 3 and up): It was only a matter of time before Build-A-Bear caught on to the "Frozen" craze, and this holiday your kids can make their very own Olaf, Elsa or Anna plush friend and dress it up in some very snazzy costumes and acessories. You can even add a sound insert to the toy so that it will play one of the songs from the movie - amazing! There's no way your child will ever want to let their new friend go!
PULSE SAFE START SCOOTER (MSRP $79.99; ages 3-5): Young kids can learn all the esentials of how to ride on an electric scooter featuring their favorite licensed characters, and parents can avoid the panic-inducing nature of traditional scooters with this three-whell electric scooter designed specifically for toddlers. With specific dimensions to make the scooters particularly stable and technology that allows kids to ride regardless of experience, these are sure to be a huge hit for the holidays!
In addition to my personal choices listed above, I highly encourage you to check out The Toy Insider's Hot 20 and Top Tech 12 lists, which are chock-full of some of the most fabulous holiday toys around! For more information, visit www.thebigtoybook.com and www.thetoyinsider.com. Happy shopping!