- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Here’s a sampling of toys that could put smiles on the faces of the youngsters on your gift list.

*The child-sized Brik-A-Blok Building System (ages 6 and older, $179.97) keeps a child’s imagination growing with 46 16-inch square polymer panels and connectors that can be used to build multifaceted mazes, tunnels and forts - just about any structure one can imagine. Structures can be linked, creating lookout posts with a tunnel between them. Connectors allow unlimited building options and even can be used to create a hinged panel so a child can pop out through it.

The lightweight panels are easily connected to create a four-sided square, a three-sided tunnel or a wall of panels limited in size only by the number of panels owned. When play is finished, the panels can be stacked and stored in a 16-by-16-by-23-inch carrying case.

*A sturdier board with increased grip, aluminum casters and four durable polyurethane wheels combine in the Shred Sled (ages 8 and older, $119.99) to offer new thrills for skate and snowboard enthusiasts. A pair of wheels beneath each deck allow for increased maneuverability for maximum tricks. The Shred Sled takes off easier, gaining speed and climbing hills faster and with less effort. With wheels that can run in-line or parallel, the Shred Sled rocks the concrete arenas.

*First Act has released the Target-exclusive 222 Electric Guitar (ages 8 and older, $149). The guitar is packaged with an amp, strap and picks, enabling the user to pick it up, plug it in and get started.

The mahogany guitar features a thin, tapered-profile neck with ebony fretboard and abalone block inlays. The body is an asymmetrical double cutaway with carved top, while the guitar’s electronics include two First Act/Kent Armstrong Lola-designed humbucker pickups. The instrument also features plenty of chrome and silver inserts.

Also included is a 12-issue subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

The guitar was designed with the help of Maroon 5 guitarist Adam Levine, and though it probably wouldn’t hold up to a rock tour - or even a very strenuous rehearsal - it does provide a reasonably priced first guitar.

*Hasbro’s Monopoly City (ages 8 and older, $23.32) has players building a 3-D metropolis while they amass, or lose, their fortunes. Players become property developers as they work their way around the board, attempting to build their dream city.

This game features newly named properties, money values and really cool high-rise buildings, including the elusive Monopoly Tower. Instead of acquiring land deeds, the goal of this game is to accumulate building permits for your district. Players must be careful, though, as a competing player can easily build an industrial plant or sewage treatment center right next to his mega-luxury high-rise, making his property values plummet and raising quite a stink.

*Turn any flat surface into a 60-inch screen with the Jakks Pacific EyeClops Mini Projector (ages 8 and older, $79.97). The projector works with DVD players, iPods, video-game consoles and digital cameras - any device that can be connected using RCA cables (not included). Once connected, the projector will display a film or game onto a flat surface, requiring only complete darkness for a crisp, clear picture. The projector can be used with headphones or external speakers for enhanced audio clarity.

*The WowWee Alive Seal Pup (ages 3 and older, $49.97) is one of nine cute and cuddly robotic plush friends waiting to be adopted by a youngster. As a child interacts with the seal pup, the animal makes sounds, even snoring as it falls asleep.

With advanced animatronics, the Alive pets respond to and with sound and motion. Hold the baby and stroke its back, pat its head or cradle it warmly in your arms and be rewarded with blinking eyes, mouth movements and baby animal coos. Each WowWee Alive baby animal comes with adoption papers and family portrait.

*He claps his hands when he is excited, slurps his bright yellow banana-shaped bottle and giggles when you tickle his foot. Fur Real Friends Cuddle Chimpby Hasbro (ages 4 and older, $34.99) is a baby chimpanzee that loves to be loved. He hugs back when being hugged and makes fun facial expressions and realistic baby chimp sounds when you pet the soft fur on his back. Cuddle Chimp comes with an adoption certificate and bottle.

*Rocking, stomping, roaring, chomping and walking. It’s not your little one, its Monty Rex from Playskool (ages 4 and older, $59.99), a T-Rex with something to say. Release the Monty Rex from his box, and he’s ready to stomp around the house. Touch his back to hear a roar and purr and watch him move his head and wave his short little arms. Monty Rex also plays three rocking tunes so you can dance and roar together.

*Thomas the Tank Engine is the “Hero of the Rails” in Learning Curve’s Farewell at the Docks set (ages 3 and older, $179.99). This play set features Hiro, introduced in the recently released “Hero of the Rails” DVD as one of the oldest and strongest engines on the Island of Sodor. With help from his friends, Thomas helps restore Hiro’s honor, helping him regain his earlier splendor.

This Talking Railways wooden set features engine-recognition technology, which enables Sir Topham Hatt to identify the trains when they chug over the sensor in front of Cranky the Crane, who loads the trains’ cargo cars. The set also includes an exclusive Dock Shed decorated for Hiro’s party, an elevated bridge and exclusive Hiro engine and coal car. Also included is a special Thomas, who is wearing bunting and balloons, plus a cargo car with a special party-supplies cargo box.

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