The Best in Holiday 2012 Gift Finds is an ongoing series until December that celebrates the practical to the extravagant, the unusual to the commonly needed items of everyday life.
From food, wine and spirits to beauty, clothing and even home goods and appliances, we have been trying and testing and ultimately weeding out the good stuff you should consider for giving this holiday season. Take us shopping with you.
There are tons of toys out there to choose from, but this little list for mainly age 3 and up (one toy, the Smack Shot, is for older kids) represents an array of affordable fun toys that help kids express themselves in creative ways, reinforces confidence building skills, helps with fine motor skills and tutors in math and reading.
VTech - InnoTab 2 Interactive Learning Tablet
The new InnoTab 2 is a multi-media tablet toy for kids 3-9 years old, a child's first iPad if you will.
This powerful little gadget is an e-reader, MP3player, and art studio with a rotating camera and video recorder so kids can capture pictures and videos of themselves and others. It's much more impressive than the original InnoTab and does quite a bit more.
InnoTab 2 includes 2 GB onboard memory with 17 apps included, plus an SD card slot for up to 32 GB of memory, and can be expanded with 200 additional apps.
The video feature and the art studio were the most fun for me with the various colors, paint brushes, and “stickers.” The InnoTab 2 contains educational games and an e-reader to help with tutoring, and for under $80, it's a nice head start.
Another gadget for the 3-8 set, as this allows a child to become adept at keying and using a touchscreen, microphone and slide-out keyboard. The Qwerty keyboard helps kids become familiar with a keyboard layout we all deal with in daily life, and it also serves as an e-reader, math tutor, photo album, photo viewer and art studio and coloring book. There are also hundreds of downloadable games and e-books available online at the Learning Lodge. This is a more portable learning sytem than the more complex InnoTab, and does not have any video features. Comes with three free downloads too. Unisex in color.
Kidz Bop Sing-Along Microphone with MP3 Speaker
This shiny pink microphone and stand comes with a Kidz Bop CD featuring radio hits like "Rolling in the Deep”, “The Edge of Glory”, “Stereo Hearts” and “Firework.” My favorite feature is the MP3 jack located on the back of the player, allowing you to pipe your own saved music through the built in speaker (you need a cord for this). It also comes with a VIP lanyard and two concert tickets to complete your very own at home pop concert. Caveat: Stand is not adjustable for height.
SplatX Smack Shot
CHOKING HAZARD -- Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs. 8+ age range.
This is just as much fun for adults as it is for kids, and was my favorite in the group for testing. Who doesn't like to launch gooey harmless things at your favorite target? The ammo is that same stuff that was used in toys to "crawl" down a wall. There are 7 Ammo pieces in the box, and more is sold separately, so I suggest buying an extra pack. Also I have read many "real mom" reviews who praise it for special needs kids who need to work on muscle and fine motor skills and coordination. Caveat: Dogs/cats will hate it and they MAY eat the ammo.
Kidz Bop Pop Star Keyboard
For the pop-music obsessed, Imperial's Keyboard adds to their MP3 Player With Microphone stand we mention above to give aspiring The Voice or American Idol fans a chance to hone their mad skills and stage wagger.
The battery powered (included) Keyboard is perfect for playing along to the hits like "Whip My Hair."
The entire Kidz Bop Glammerati collection is highlighted by this Keyboard. Love the special glitter effects, the Glammerati Pop Star Keyboard has 4 instrumental sounds, 8 rhythm sounds, 4 special sound effects and features 3 Kidz Bop hits. The record and playback function that builds a kid's confidence level too. Includes an "All Access VIP Credential", lanyard and 2 concert tickets. For ages 5 years and above.